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Small Greenwich Shops Cope With Slow Season

GREENWICH, Conn. – This holiday season, Greenwich’s “mom and pop” retail shops say they are once again struggling to compete with a sluggish economy, corporate-backed superstores, and Internet shopping.

Helene Wurtzel, an employee at All About Me on Mill Street in Byram, said business was booming on Black Friday, but it’s been slower ever since then. “It was really great, bustling, and charged that day,” she said. “Last year, it was pretty much the same, but we’ve noticed a change. Department stores have really been pushing sales this year, offering more big sale days, and that has really made it tougher.”

Cynthia’s on Mill Street in Byram is in its sixth holiday season, but owner Cynthia Hahn says this year has been slower than in the past. “We’re not going to panic yet, but the bigger, box stores are throwing out sales that we can’t compete with,” she said.

Still, some Greenwich shop owners say it’s too early to say what the holiday shopping season will bring. “A lot of people around here wait until the last minute. December 24th is my busiest day of the year,” said David Wood, owner of the Funhouse, a toy store in Old Greenwich. “It’s hard to gauge what this season is going to be like. I’m always optimistic.”

Wood says he’s competing with the Internet more than anything this time of year. “Kids are very specific about what they want. We’re just a brick and mortar store,” he said. “I do have a web page for people to find me if they Google me.”

Cynthia’s doesn’t offer online shopping because product changes so quickly, but Hahn has used Facebook connections with old friends from her all-girls high school to reach new clientele. “It’s free and it has put me in touch with people all over the country that see my stuff and I can ship to them,” she said.

Despite Internet shopping and competitive sales, some small stores, such as Sound Beach Sportswear in Old Greenwich, haven’t seen much of a change in business this year. “November was a good month for us, and December hasn’t been bad so far, either, thank God,” said owner Gorgai Vlehakis. “People like to shop in the village and see more boutiques. I don’t think they need big stores.”

Wurtzel agreed that residents in Greenwich like shopping at smaller businesses. “They like that it’s more personal. You can get different items and you don’t have to wait on a long line to get things gift wrapped."

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