As the weather grows warmer, business owners in West Jefferson are warming up to the idea of opening their doors on Sundays hoping to attract customers who flee the county for weekend shopping trips to Boone and Blowing Rock.
“I don’t relish the idea of working seven days-a-week,” said Shelley Felder, the owner of the Honey Hole in West Jefferson, “but we have an obligation to be hospitable to those who visit us.”
One of Felder’s chief concerns for her business is that visitors, and locals for that matter, leave the county to shop on Sundays.
“I think we’re losing too many people to Boone and Blowing Rock,” said Felder.
Felder said the most heavily-trafficked time during a week is on Sundays from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. She said hotel checkouts are usually on Sunday afternoons, and many visitors want something to do before making their trips back home.
According to Felder, her and Lisa Willingham, co-owner of the Artist Theater, are planning to open on Sundays on the first weekend in June.
“I stayed open on Sundays the first year we opened,” said Willingham. However, Sunday’s were not heavily trafficked because only two other businesses were open on Sundays at that time.
“If we could get a group of businesses from this end to open on Sunday, it could help all of us,” said Willingham. “It could be a really big thing.
Melissa Cox, the owner of the Vintage Locket, agreed with Felder and Willingham, and said West Jefferson is primed to thrive on Sundays.
The streetscaping in West Jefferson, along with new downtown restaurants and Parkway Theater’s 3 p.m. Sunday matinees should open the town up, according to Cox.
“I never have understood why so many businesses were closed on Sundays,” said Cox.
According to Cox, she was one of the first people to start the push for businesses to open on Sundays. She plans on opening her doors the Sunday after Mother’s Day.
“I have been preaching this since I moved here,” said Cox.
Like Felder, Cox believes customers are leaving Ashe County to shop elsewhere because they cannot find the time with their 9 to 5 jobs to shop locally. Often, her customers visit during their lunch breaks, and instead of peacefully browsing the store, they often rush through because of their time constraints.
“People spend more money when they are relaxed and browsing,” said Cox.
Cox speculated why most businesses in West Jefferson are closed on Sunday. One reason was business owners need time off to relax with their families.
“A lot of people want to spend time with their families,” said Cox.
She also said, for many, it’s a tradition to stay away from work after being dismissed from church on Sunday.
However, Cox said she sees benefits to opening her business’s doors to customers after her church dismisses at 11:30. She said many people have a difficult time finding a place to shop during the week, and need to shop on the weekend, sometimes Sunday.
“If we’re going to make this a downtown area people like to visit, and we already have nice restaurants, then I think businesses should be open,” said Cox.