GARRETSON, SD (KELO) — Merchants in rural KELOLAND communities want everyone to know you don’t have to go to big box stores, or even bigger cities, to complete your holiday shopping lists. You may find what you’re looking for by heading just a few miles out of town.
Small towns in the shadow of Sioux Falls tout their old-fashioned Christmas allure as an advantage over the big city. But shops in towns like Garretson also have to work hard at bringing in customers during this crucial time of year for their bottom line.
It’s Christmas every day at Rainbow Delight in Garretson.
“There’s candles, there’s plates, paper plates, last-minute items, votives,” owner Keith Haffer said.
This Main Street shop sells Christmas items all year long. But business really ramps up heading into the holidays.
“We tend to draw more from Sioux Falls, Brandon, Minnesota, as people come in, more from local people. But the local people keep us going in the off-season because we have cards and balloons and gift items,” Haffer said.
Across the street at the Treasure Chest, one holiday item outsells the others.
“Oh, toys of course! Santa shops here,” Treasure Chest owner Connie Johnson said.
If Santa shops here, so do other customers who want a more traditional-style experience.
“I think it’s just the old-fashioned feel. It’s a small town and we’re a community, so it’s the feeling of being in a small town,” Johnson.
But small town charms can only go so far. Selection is also an important consideration.
“Small towns are hard because you have a Main Street and you have a couple of choices. Someone’s going to make a trip all the way out from Sioux Falls or Brandon, they want to look around at more than one store at times,” Haffer said.
Many shops in rural KELOLAND are also dealing with low unemployment and that can affect staffing and cut back on the number of hours and days that they’re open for the holidays.
“So we’ve had to cut our hours down to just three days a week: Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But those are the busiest days because you have people of all ages that can come out rather than just people that are retired or farmers that aren’t planting that time of year,” Haffer said.
Rainbow Delight offers perks like free gift-wrapping and wreath giveaways as a way to get customer to drive the extra miles into Garretson.
“We have people that come in and say we’re the best-kept secret in South Dakota,” Haffer said.
Another way Garretson hopes to attract more people to town is a new holiday light display going up in their city park. It’s project that’s so important, people are volunteering their time to create the display. We’ll show you how community pride and holiday spirit are converging in Splitrock Park, in tonight’s Eye On KELOLAND, at 10.