Holiday shopping on Bloomington’s downtown Square. Photo by Steve Raymer


When holiday shopping starts in earnest on Thanksgiving weekend, many folks can’t wait to pack into the big-box stores, pushing and shoving to snag a bargain. But Talisha Coppock, executive director of Downtown Bloomington Inc., suggests a different scenario for those who want to create a more meaningful holiday tradition.

“It all starts with the lighting ceremony downtown,” Coppock says. “The Canopy of Lights the Friday evening after Thanksgiving really kicks it off.” On Saturday, the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market turns into the Holiday Market, offering locally grown farm products, arts and crafts, entertainment, food vendors, and a visit from Saint Nick and his reindeer.

From there, Coppock encourages everyone to visit local retailers for their holiday shopping. “This is a really significant time in the life of retail shops,” Coppock says of the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their yearly sales.

Shopping in local stores offers more than the chance just to buy something, Coppock says. “Local businesses are good at keeping up with trends and purchase with their customers in mind,” she says. Plus, the owners are right there to help. “There is someone really paying attention to you,” adds Coppock. “For the hobbyist, whether it’s cooking or running or something else, there’s also the opportunity to learn more about a topic.”

Coppock says buying from small, local retailers means purchasing carefully selected or handmade items, and this appeals to many shoppers. “People are trying to live more deliberately,” Coppock says. “They want authentic things and they want to spend their money on things that are really special.”

Buying from local retailers obviously benefits small business owners. “As more people buy online, it affects retailers’ ability to pay the rent,” Coppock says. But she notes the internet isn’t the enemy; many, if not most, small businesses have websites and some even use them as retail outlets. Still, shopping in the brick-and-mortar store is the best way to support a small business.

For more information or to purchase a gift certificate accepted at more than 80 downtown merchants, visit