HOULTON, Maine — There was no snow but there were lots of shoppers in downtown Houlton on Sunday afternoon, as downtown businesses threw open their doors and slashed prices during the annual Downtown Merchants Holiday Open House.
Shoppers crowded into Market Square to take advantage of bargains offered by nearly a dozen businesses.
The event is put on annually by the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce.
Between the open house and the Temple Theatre’s screening of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” there were few available parking spaces in the downtown.
“It has been busy ever since we opened the doors,” Mike Beals, proprietor of Beal’s Variety, said Sunday.
The store was decked out for Christmas, with trees and wreaths on display and Christmas cookies, fudge and other snacks offered free to patrons. Customers squeezed by one another in the crowded shop as they looked at the variety of goods, taking advantage of reduced prices for candles, children’s books, decorations and other items.
Customers also were attracted to a train set that Beals had set up to circle a Christmas display in the store.
Next door at Scraps, proprietors Bev Rowe and Lisa Winship had their scrapbook supply shop stocked with new merchandise. Customers checked out displays of Christmas-card-making material, stocked up on stickers, stamps and other paper goods.
“This is the fifth year we have participated in this,” Rowe said Sunday. “Every year, it gets more and more popular.”
There was little room for browsing a short distance away at Country North Gifts, as a crowd was inside the store poring over displays of candles, wood crafts, knickknacks and personalized gifts. Employees were busy gift wrapping purchases for customers and doling out fudge, cookies, apple cider and other desserts.
“We do this every year, and each time it is more and more successful,” Gail Scovill, the store owner, said Sunday. “We do a lot of business during this event.”
Lynn Martin of Smyrna was loaded up with bags Sunday afternoon, having purchased books, a picture frame and a new Christmas wreath for her front door.
“I never miss this,” she said. “The downtown merchants always have their stores all decked out, and they offer so many great deals.”
She lauded the merchants who participated and the Chamber for sponsoring the event.
“I think this encourages more people to shop local,” she said. “It is great to see.”