It’s a warm, muggy Denton day in November.  As I am writing this week’s column, I feel a bit like one of the forgotten on the Island of Misfit Toys that Santa passed over on the old “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” animated holiday TV special; except it’s fall and not Santa that seems to have passed us by.  Weathermen say the season will soon change, but we haven’t even had a good tease yet.

That’s why the transition from sidewalk to interior was so delightful when I stepped into Garden Gate at 121 N. Elm Street earlier today.  The A/C refreshed like a cool front, and all around me, Christmas!  Festive trees, twinkling lights, candles, decorations, gifts.  Crisp fall or not, the holidays are arriving on the square!

This coming weekend, November 12 and 13, is the Denton Main Street Association’s (DMSA) annual Holiday Open House.  “It’s a more than 20-year-old tradition in Denton,” Garden Gate owner Traci Davis said.  “I bought Garden Gate almost 10 years ago from (the late) Janice Spurgeon, the original owner and lady who first had the Holiday Open House idea.”

img_2824In the late 80s, Janice started coordinating with fellow downtown merchants to cost-share a fall promotional campaign to encourage customers to get a head start on the holidays.

Traci was still new in the Garden Gate mainstay when the DMSA recruited her to their board and she joined the tight-knit downtown merchant community.  Eager to engage, she plugged in fast, taking over where Janice left off organizing the long-standing Holiday Open House tradition.  Under Traci’s leadership, the official holiday shopping kick-off weekend moved under the DMSA banner where it has thrived ever since.

Mellow Mushroom owner Monte Jensen is the DMSA President.  “Holiday Open House is good for Denton!” he exclaimed.  “Money spent at locally doesn't go to large, online retailers; the majority of money spent here is spent in Denton again.  Once that money leaves our economy, it belongs somewhere else.”

Why is a weekend tailored to shopping important to a restaurant owner?

“There are several really good reasons,” Monte explained.  “First: if the money spent locally stays here, it is that much more likely that it'll make its way to my establishment. What's not to like about that?  Secondly, the money spent here provides tax dollars necessary to support Denton’s infrastructure.  Some random big business in Seattle isn't going to fix our potholes.  Thirdly, all that foot traffic and shopping makes people hungry.  Maybe those hungry people will have something to eat or a drink at Mellow Mushroom.  And finally, diversity of business - a mix of restaurant, bar and retail - is vital to the health of our downtown business district.  Monocultures don't typically thrive, but diversity does!”

Well said, Monte!  That is economic vitality in a nutshell.

Holiday Open House - Girls ShoppingThis year, more than 45 downtown businesses are participating in Holiday Open House.  Featured products will include art, jewelry, clothing, books, records, music, wine, sweets, home décor and lots of Christmas everything.  Like Monte said, the downtown eateries, coffee shops and pubs are part of the experience, too.  Shoppers will discover specials, door prize drawings, refreshments and music along the way.

“People from all over have heard about Denton’s growth downtown, especially in the dining and entertainment arenas,” Traci said.  “Some of my customers have called wondering if Holiday Open House is still on in Denton.”

So much is happening here, Traci said, and people are amazed at the changes.  She cited a recent call from an out-of-town customer who expressed concern that downtown Denton offered less shopping and more bars these days.  In this lady’s perception, things might not be changing for the better.  Traci encouraged her to come for a visit and see things for herself.  The lady took Traci’s advice and reported back that she was thrilled at the pleasant balance of retail and entertainment.

Traci’s customers are among locals and visitors alike realizing that retail is blossoming right along with everything else in Denton, one of Texas’ most vibrant downtowns.  There are more shopping destinations now than ever.

Traci and Monte, like many downtown Denton business owners, have embraced the truth of inevitable change and are helping Denton stay Denton by shaping instead of succumbing to it.  “We’ve added clothing and some locally-sourced specialty food items this year,” Traci said of her Garden Gate domain.  “Denton is growing, and so are we.”

Whatever the weather doles out this weekend, don shorts or sweaters accordingly and get your holiday #dentoning underway at the Holiday Open House.  Ready or not, it’s time!

Holiday Open House details are available at the DMSA website and at #downtowndenton.