The winter holiday season tends to be a crucial time for retailers, restaurants, and other small businesses that rely on the annual flurry of gift-giving and festivities to bring in the revenue they need to stay afloat, but it will be especially pivotal this year after months of economic challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of its ongoing efforts to encourage community members to support local businesses, the Vienna Business Association has expanded the Small Business Saturday guide that it normally puts together every year into a Vienna Holiday Guide.
Launched online on Nov. 1, the guide gives local businesses a platform to share the deals and promotions that they are offering during this holiday season. It also features public events hosted by the VBA and the Town of Vienna, such as the Shop & Stroll series and the annual decorating contest.
“We just want to do everything we can to help the businesses that are struggling so much, and this holiday season is so critical,” VBA Executive Director Peggy James said. “Nothing against Amazon, but our businesses really, really need the business. Small businesses really need the business, so it just seemed like a nice thing to do.”
Vienna business owners say the VBA’s support and the sense of community fostered by Town officials and residents have buoyed them as they adapted their products and services to a world of social distancing and public-gathering restrictions.
“Vienna is really awesome. They’re really a loyal customer base,” Potomac River Running Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator Gina DeGaetano said. “…The business association [is] doing everything right to encourage people to continue to shop small, whether that’s supporting them online or coming into the store, and we’re certainly seeing the Vienna customer base is doing just that.”
With nine locations in the D.C. area, Potomac River Running has seen a surge of interest in walking and running during the pandemic as people needed new ways to exercise after indoor gyms and fitness centers closed.
For December promotions, the family-owned business will give free branded socks to customers who make an in-store purchase of $100 or more on Dec. 5. Anyone who spends $50 or more in-store or online from Dec. 7-24 will get a $10 store credit that can be redeemed in January.
DeGaetano says the past nine months have not been easy, but Potomac River Running’s adjusted business model, which includes enhanced curbside pickups and virtual shoe fittings, could better serve the community in the long run.
Vienna Body & Brain has similarly found ways to turn hardship into opportunity.
After Virginia’s stay-at-home order forced the studio to close in March, owner and lead instructor Paula Pierce quickly pivoted the yoga and tai chi classes to online streaming, something she plans to continue even after in-person classes resume.
While not all customers migrated online, Pierce says the change enabled her center to reach more people – new members have included a couple from Delaware and one resident of Sweden. She can now also collaborate with other Body & Brain franchises in the region.
In addition to offering one-week $10 trials and $99 memberships to all online classes for a month as holiday promotions, Vienna Body & Brain will join NoVA Spine & Wellness to host a free webinar on Dec. 15 that will focus on stress management and immune system support.
“With the politics and the protests and the pandemic, people are under a lot of emotional and mental stress,” Pierce said. “We just thought it was a great way to support the community and introduce our services, but also give people a few things that they can do on their own to care for themselves.”
Other unique promotions featured in the Vienna Holiday Guide include the Stroke Comeback Center’s virtual Caring Tree, which allows people to honor someone in their life with a star in exchange for a $25 donation to the nonprofit.
Interior designer Syntha Harris is offering a four-hour consultation for homes within 20 miles of Vienna. Syntha Harris Interiors mainly provides in-person meetings with masks required, but they can also accommodate clients who would prefer to meet virtually.
“The challenging year we have had in 2020 has put a new focus on the meaning and use of our homes,” Harris said. “Now they are being utilized not just for family living, parental work, but children’s schooling as well…The need to create a sanctuary where we find peace and have the ability to recharge is an important part of wellness.”
The full Vienna Holiday Guide can be found on the VBA website. All businesses and nonprofits in Vienna are allowed to add promotions to the list until Dec. 31.
Staff photo by Angela Woolsey