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Downtown Gainesville shops hopping with last-minute buyers
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Alyssa Andrews, left, manager of Dress Up, and Reed McGuire arrange clothes in downtown Gainesville, on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

Local businesses in Gainesville were bustling on the Saturday before Christmas as shoppers rushed to buy last-minute items.

Saul’s, owned and operated by Lorry Schrage, has been on the square since 1939.

“My parents were the ones that opened the store, and as a child, I pretty much grew up here. I took over in 1970, and in my time I’ve seen rises and declines in business, where one day you might have many customers and the next you have very few,” Schrage said.

“We still have ladies come in looking for something classy to wear for holiday parties and men shopping for their wives, but not as many as we used to.”

Business may be down for Saul’s compared to previous years, but Schrage said sales have been average this year.  

“Years ago, before computers and online shopping were even thought of, business was booming. I think that’s why we’ve seen a decrease in shoppers,” he said.

Carolyn McNeal, a Saul’s employee for 30 years, agreed.

“Online shopping has become extremely popular, but with that, you don’t get a very personal experience,” she said. “For example, at Saul’s, we give customers the best service possible, and if they buy a gift for someone we will wrap it. I’ve wrapped maybe 15 this year, compared to more than I could count in years past. That’s how I know business is down.”

Across the street at Dress Up Boutique, shoppers could be seen coming into the store just as quickly as others were leaving.

“We have been extremely busy today, and over the past few weeks in general,” manager Alyssa Andrews said.

Andrews said many customers waited until the last minute to finish their shopping, and came into the store because they didn’t have time to order anything.

“I’ve seen a lot of boyfriends, dads, and husbands come in frazzled, looking for the perfect gift for their girlfriend, daughter or wife,” she said. “I’ve also seen just as many women come in and try to buy for friends or the whole family, whether it be for a mom, daughter, cousin, aunt or grandma.”

Not all of the customers were searching for gifts, though.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in shopping for themselves for something to wear to a Christmas party or other holiday outing,” Andrews said. “I think that’s one fun part of the holiday season — everybody wants to dress nice and also look festive.”

Vicki Moore, owner of the Rahab’s Rope store in Gainesville, has also noticed a jump in business during the holiday season. Rahab’s Rope is an organization in India that provides women who are victims of sex trafficking an opportunity to rebuild their lives with a safe place and a job.

“We sell a lot of items perfect for gifting — shawls, jewelry, and journals have all been very popular this year,” Moore said. “We also have a lot of décor and accessories for the home, and of course, everything is handmade with proceeds going toward a great organization.”

At Rahab’s Rope, there was also a trend in last-minute shoppers.

“Everyone usually has at least one person on their list that they have no idea what to buy, and when they come in here, they can usually find something,” Moore said. “Our first customer today was actually struggling to find a gift for someone, and they told me, ‘I knew I could find something in here, your inventory selection is so unique.’”

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