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The Scarlet & Black

Holi-deals for the holidays: gift-giving in Grinnell

Downtown+Grinnell+hosts+many+buisnesses+that+have+decorated+for+the+holidays+or+that+are+offering+special+seals+for+those+procrastinating+their+shopping.+Photo+by+Shabana+Gupta.
Downtown Grinnell hosts many buisnesses that have decorated for the holidays or that are offering special seals for those procrastinating their shopping. Photo by Shabana Gupta.

With the holidays around the corner, Grinnell’s town square has its trees dressed in color and its archways trailed with Christmas lights. The shops, too, are anticipating the holiday season.

Ranked America’s third coolest small town by CBS in 2009, Grinnell has a special holiday system. Because there are a limited number of stores, anyone can make a wish list for the holidays and give it to the specific stores they wish to receive a gift from, according to Rachael Kinnick, the director of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce. Friends, family and neighbors can then go to the stores, request to see the wish list of their loved one and purchase the gift. If the store does not have the item, they will usually acquire the item for the customer from trusted retailers and have it within a day or two to pick up, said Kinnick.

“The stores that we do have have a higher commitment and level of service that you might not find in larger communities,” Kinnick said.

Part of what makes this the case is that very often, customers will do business either with employees once or twice removed from the store owners or directly with the owners themselves.

“Downtown Grinnell also has a good number of stores that offer activity-based events, or participate in holiday community engagement,” Kinnick said.

The holiday season started in Grinnell with Jingle Bell Holiday in November, with retailers and services contributing to the day’s festivities. That day featured the Winter Farmer’s Market, and anyone can directly contact the vendors from that event and ask for gift ideas or holiday presents that they carry, or for recommendations of items residents need.

Grinnell also features pop-up stores for the season, like Busy Bee Farms or Handmade for the Holidays. Busy Bee sells naturally-made chapsticks, lip balm, lotion and more that they produce in Grinnell. Handmade for the Holidays, open during select hours from now until Christmas, handcrafts every item that they sell.

Pop-ups and regular stores that are members of the Chamber of Commerce accept GrinnellBucks (or ChamberBucks), which are essentially gift cards that can be used in any member restaurant, retail, community center or other business associate with the Chamber. This is perfect for people who are not familiar with Grinnell, or who have to shop in multiple places or want to support local businesses. And for all stores, you don’t even have to pay on the spot. Grinnell has a registry for this purpose.

“You can do that locally and go shopping for yourself without having to spend the money first, and see what you get, and go back and use your gift card to purchase the things on your list.”

Overall, it is encouraged to shop locally here in Grinnell. “If you make the commitment to look local first, you can oftentimes find a product you are looking for, or a variation of that product,” Kinnick said.

According to Kinnick, shopping locally also has an economic effect. “Every dollar that gets spent here has seven percent that goes directly to the economy. It helps with things you don’t normally think about, like roadways and sidewalks, and the school district, and just making Grinnell a bigger and stronger place. The more economic impact and sales we can capture here, the more economic impact we can capture long term. It does add up.”

With the holidays around the corner, stores have started lighting up their displays and getting ready for the season of giving: it’s the perfect time to take a walk downtown and finish up your holiday shopping.

Downtown Grinnell hosts many buisnesses that have decorated for the holidays or that are offering special seals for those procrastinating their shopping. Photo by Shabana Gupta.
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