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Many Gainesville businesses still observe the Sabbath
Sunday store closings reflect wider community values
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Hairshack owner Danny Pridgen closes his longtime downtown Gainesville business on Sundays.

Closing business doors on Sundays may seem anachronistic in the 21st century, but in Gainesville it’s simply a reflection of the wider community’s values.

And so despite the potential financial hit, many places, including restaurants, gift shops and barbershops follow the Sabbath.

“I just think Gainesville is small-town oriented,” said Erin Allison, manager of the Little Ladybug gift shop on Thompson Bridge Road. “It seems like most people treat Sunday as a time to spend with family. It’s just important for this whole town. It’s just what we do.”

Governments in many Western European countries still impose some restrictions on Sunday trading, though they have begun to wither under the wave of free-market capitalism and customer demand.

In Norway, however, only gas stations, grocery stores and flower shops are free to open Sundays. In the United States, Bergen County, N.J., still prohibits any Sunday shopping.

And in some states, Sunday blue laws regulating the sale of alcohol remain in place. Georgia only began allowing cities and counties to scrap those bans in 2011.

Though corporate chains like Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby may be better positioned to manage Sunday closings in the highly competitive market of service and retail sales, local businesses have more considerations to weigh.

Indeed, there are also very practical business concerns in play.

Carole Hudgins, owner of The Little Ladybug, said that she opened on Sundays a few times during the holiday shopping season in recent years, but “it did not prove beneficial” for her bottom line.

“There are no other businesses around here that are open on Sunday that would draw in the customers for me,” Hudgins said. “I’m all about shopping local, but I don’t necessarily think it’s necessary on Sunday.”

However, Hudgins said that were she located in downtown Dahlonega, for instance, customer demand would compel her to open on Sundays.

Hudgins, who opened her store 21 years ago, said she’s happy with her decision to remain closed on Sundays. It gives her the chance to spend more time with her children and attend church.

“I already work six days a week,” she added. “I didn’t want to work on Sundays.”

Customer demand is something Danny Pridgen, owner of the Hairshack in the downtown square, has also identified as a reason for closing on the Sabbath.

In the haircutting and salon business, Sundays tend to be slow anyway, he said. Most people need to get a fresh cut during the week for work, or on Fridays and Saturdays before hitting the town to socialize.

And his clientele are churchgoing, too, something he recognized when first moving here.

Pridgen’s son is a pastor, and so having time to attend church every week “means a whole lot” to him, as well.

“It has a little bit to do with both,” he said about why he closes on Sundays.

Tim Bunch, owner of the Longstreet Café on Riverside Terrace, said he recalls growing up when Sunday closings were the norm.

Bunch used to open his restaurant on Sundays to serve the churchgoing crowd, but stopped doing so about 10 years ago.

Bunch said his customers would frequently lament that he and his staff had to work while they spent time with their families and congregations.

And so despite the fact that closing on the Sabbath meant losing about 20 percent of his weekly business, Bunch said it’s a sacrifice he’s glad he made.

After all, he said, doing so has proven to be a morale boost for his employees, and there may be no quantifying the financial benefit that can have on a business.

“It gives them a chance to be with their families,” he said.

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