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Hard work for families in need

Sashabaw Middle School students work to load thousands of donated cans and boxes on a truck for Lighthouse North. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
November 24, 2010 - Black Friday usually means the mall, but for Clarkston store owners Ann Stevenson and Shari Schulz, it's an opportunity for them, too.

"Shop locally avoid the hassle of traffic and the mall," Schulz said. "We open at 9 a.m. so you don't have to get up early."

Or folks can come by for dinner and shopping for more specialty items in Clarkston, said Stevenson, owner of Union General, 50 S. Main Street.

"Come see us in the evening after the mall," she said.

Union General offers 20 percent off holiday decor, as well as free samples, appetizers, and wine tasting, and Schulz' Chi Chi La La Boutique and Clarkston Flower Shoppe, 7150 N. Main Street, offers 25 percent off coats, Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving.

Downtown businesses also got an early start on the holiday shopping season with a Holiday Walk, Nov. 13.

"It's a good way to roll into the season and bring people in," Stevenson said. "It truly is a great way to get customers ready for the shopping season with an awareness of spending their money locally in the village."

Sashabaw Middle School Leadership Club and Student Council members delivered thousands of donations to Lighthouse North. Photos by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
Clarkston Retailer's Group hosted its annual Holiday Walk, offering wine tasting and hors d'ouerves, specials and give-aways.

Downtown business owners are usually found right behind the counter, so Clarkston shops are also more responsive and friendly. Producing their own products or doing their own ordering, they offer products and services Clarkston shoppers want, Stevenson said.

Recent additions including the Woodshop restaurant, Essence on Main gourmet specialty foods and DH Homes interior design bring more people downtown, she said.

"Lots of pedestrian action downtown," she said. "More people are out later."

In its second year, more than 20 association members work together to promote downtown businesses.

"Merchants work together, not competing against each other," Stevenson said. "We have good camaraderie and support, with good energy."

They also plan events, including the Holiday Walk and Howl-oween last month.

"Howloween was really fun, a good turnout," said Liz Andre-Stotz, owner of the Parsonage. "It's cool being here, showing off what we do."

Also, Avanti Salon and Spa, 7505 ME Cad Boulevard, offers a one-day sale on gift certificates, $160 value for $100, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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