Kids play in “snow” from one of two machines Shane Quick hopes will turn the Warehouse District into a winter wonderland for shoppers. / W.C. Mann
CULLMAN – On Friday morning, the merchants of the Warehouse District gathered with Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs and other members of the city government, along with representatives of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Cullman Economic Development Agency, for a ceremony sponsored by the Alabama Retail Association (ARA) to give the Christmas shopping season an official kickoff. Melissa Warnke, manager of communications and engagement for the Alabama Retail Association in Montgomery, herself a Cullman native, came back to her hometown to preside over the event.
In an earlier press release, she explained the ARA’s Christmas emphasis:
“Each year before Thanksgiving, the Alabama Retail Association holds a “Shop Alabama for the Holidays” tour, encouraging people across the state to spend their holiday shopping dollars with local retailers. This year, we will kick off our statewide shopping initiative in Cullman, as part of the Christmas in Cullman shopping weekend. Our goal is to showcase the importance of local retail and why it’s important to invest in those shops (and restaurants) that add to the vibrancy of our community. Following our kick-off event in Cullman, (sic) we also plan to visit Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Dothan over the next week. Our hashtag this year is #BabyItsSoldInside, celebrating the reason Alabamians love to shop as part of their holiday tradition.”
To the crowd on First Avenue, she added a personal note, “I grew up here, graduated from Cullman High School. My husband Adam Warnke did, as well; so it makes me especially proud that we are kicking off our statewide ‘Shop Alabama for the Holidays’ campaign in my hometown.”
Warnke continued, addressing the audience about the importance of the Christmas shopping season to Alabama’s retailers, “It is a busy time for all of us, especially for retailers and restaurant owners. But it’s not just a busy time for our retailers; it is a very important time for our retailers, in terms of their business. They really depend on the support of people in their community to support them, to stay in business.
“So ‘Shop Alabama’ really is a call to action. It’s a challenge for everyone to spend their holiday shopping and dining dollars locally.
“If you spend money here in Cullman, that money goes to support your friends and neighbors. It goes to really support and strengthen your local economy, and you’re investing in the vibrancy of your own city. So, what a great thing to be able to spend your money and really make an impact twice.”
Jacobs briefly addressed the crowd, thanking the merchants for their participation, and echoing Warnke’s statements about the economic impact of keeping shopping dollars and sales tax revenue close to home.
The Chamber’s Magan Bartlett pointed out that more than half of all jobs are created by small businesses. She also spoke about the Chamber’s “Think Local” campaign, encouraging area residents to think of the Cullman area first for jobs and careers, family activities and recreation, and shopping.
Margaret Hamm of Monograms Plus, one of the Warehouse District’s longest tenured merchants, focused on small business challenges, especially from online shopping, saying, “We are thankful and appreciative of the loyalty of our community, and from all across Alabama. We all have customers who come here from all corners of the state. And we invite everyone to come out and experience that Christmas shopping in person, with Santa here. And there’s going to be snow. And we have a lot of activities planned, a lot of entertainment.
“And, you know, online shopping’s never going away; but that’s just not fun like coming out with your family and friends, and shopping with your family and friends. So, remember like Melissa said, when you give a gift that you purchased locally, you’re giving that gift twice. You’re giving it to the person who receives it, and you’re giving the gift to your retailer and to your community; because we want to support all the causes that go on, we want to make donations when we’re asked. And I don’t think online retailers are going to do that, readily. So join us this weekend as we kick off ‘Christmas in Cullman,’ an event that’s been a family favorite for as long as I’ve lived here.”
“Christmas in Cullman” is happening through Sunday, Nov. 12 at merchants throughout Cullman County. For more information, visit the Chamber’s website: http://business.cullmanchamber.org/events/details/2017-christmas-in-cullman-open-house-20454.
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