Christmas is just four days away, and Jefferson County merchants are seeing an influx of customers buying gifts for family members and friends, just as they had hoped for before the holiday season began. Keeping retail dollars local has been the mantra of many in Pine Bluff over the past few years.
Pine Bluff Alderman Bill Brumett is the owner of Brumett Agency and the vice president of the Pine Bluff Small Business Association. He tells Pine Bluff residents to shop in Pine Bluff every day “because it adds to our economy and tax base and it adds to our revenue.”
“We have spoken at civic clubs, networked with small businesses to use our local vendors,” Brumett said in a previous interview. “We focus on education. Many people shop out of town because they do not realize we have those services in Pine Bluff.”
Donna Dial is a sales consultant at South Arkansas Business Solutions in Pine Bluff and the membership chairman of the Pine Bluff Small Business Association. She is also sharing the same message of shopping locally because it helps Pine Bluff residents.
“We express that when they spend one dollar, 70 cents stays in the local economy,” Dial said. “The only way to improve Pine Bluff is to spend locally so we can get revenue from tax dollars. I was born and bred in Pine Bluff.”
Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy McNew said the chamber of commerce started a campaign called Totally Locally Jefferson County. It came into existence through a small business relations committee and a local graphic designer drew the logo associated with the campaign.
“We implemented the campaign throughout the year with an e-blast,” McNew said. “We encourage our members to use the #TotallyLocallyJC. Our campaign is about creating awareness. It is evolving. We are looking for individuals to join the cause. With social media, the impact is extraordinary.”
David Maddox, owner of Father and Sons Clothier at 2801 S. Olive St. No. 35A, in the Jefferson Square Shopping Center in Pine Bluff, said he has been in business for more than 20 years and is seeing many customers shopping in his store in the days leading to Christmas.
“We are entering into the holiday season and the ball season. We did the debutante ball and things have been going great,” Maddox said. “Within the last week people have come out and selected items for Christmas. I noticed the big box stores offered Black Friday deals. As we get into the home stretch, smaller stores like mom and pop stores are offering more deals.”
Maddox said he is also an access point for UPS, which has attracted extra customers to his store.
“Going into the homestretch we will be busy all the way until Christmas,” Maddox said. “We make the transition from Christmas to prom season. We have stocked our store with unique items that the box stores do not carry. We are a specialty shop. The box stores carry items in large quantities. We build our business around providing a specialized service to our customers.”
On a recent day, Maddox assisted customer Barbara Mazique, who was buying a gift for her husband James Mazique.
“David takes care of his customers,” she said.
M&K Creations owner Mary Hulse sells snap jewelry from her home at 2710 South Evans Road in White Hall. She has recently taken her business to the Holiday Inn Express and Jefferson Regional Medical Center gift shops to sell her merchandise. Snap jewelry allows the customer to design their own bracelets.
“I have people coming by and shopping,” Hulse said. “Last year before Christmas my husband directed traffic because we had so many customers. Our advertisement in the White Hall Journal and the Pine Bluff Commercial helped me immensely.”
Hulse worked for Stant Manufacturing for 33 years and then retired. She was retired for four months and did not like being home and missed being around people. She founded her company five and a half years ago. Hulse said she finds her customers follow her to many towns in Southeastern Arkansas.
“It takes me 10 six-foot tables to put my snap jewelry on display,” Hulse said. “I go to Monticello and Warren and my customers follow me to see if I have new snaps.”
Last year Hulse received customers on Christmas Eve. She expects a repeat occurrence this year. Many customers wait until the days before Christmas to shop for gifts.
“I enjoy every one of my customers,” Hulse said. “I love seeing them. I have some customers who travel with me.”
Linda Rauls is the owner of Captured Moments, a women's upscale boutique at 2604 West 28th Street in Oak Park Village in Pine Bluff. She sells jewelry, purses and accessories. Rauls is also seeing a steady stream of customers.
“Leading up to Christmas was okay and it looks like we are going to have a good year,” Rauls said. “We have good merchandise on sale. We have a sign advertising sales of up to 75 percent off original price. We get new products every day. We have a list of customers who we contact to inform them of new stuff. We post on Facebook and Instagram and it seems to work.”
Rauls assisted her friend Beatrice Bell who was shopping in her store on a recent day.