Burb's Eye View: Gobble up boutique goods before Thanksgiving

A week before the multinational conglomerates begin their invented holiday of Black Friday, Magnolia Park's boutiques host a much more personal shopping affair that keeps a large portion of money in Burbank. And for the first time in a long time, they're going to do it on their own.

From 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, stores on Magnolia Boulevard will host performers, artists and Santa himself in a street festival for your early shopping desires. It may look a little different this year, and it may be scaled back, but store owners say they're still ready to get the party started as we head into the week of Black Friday.

Thanksgiving is somewhere in there, too.

This week's Holiday in the Park is the first in the last six years without support from the Magnolia Park Partnership, a group that all but disbanded last year after landowners in the shopping district voted against the fee added to property taxes that funded the business district's extra amenities. Those included the logistics and advertising for the summertime Be-Boppin' in the Park and Holiday in the Park, but it also paid for extra sidewalk cleanups, flowers and banners along Magnolia Boulevard.

This year's event has been funded by the merchants themselves, who are hopeful this year's celebration will not only bring people to the area but also encourage them to spend. Past events had included a score card you could have stamped at participating stores, and a full score card earned you a prize.

The event gets people through the door, but it doesn't necessarily mean a sale for the shops, according to shop owners.

“Did it help our stores? Not really. It just created (foot) traffic,” said Bell Cottage owner Theresa Hanna. “You want people to be in your store, but you want them to buy, too.”

“It's never been a huge sale night, but we enjoy the atmosphere,” said Kathy Ross, owner of Blast from the Past on Hollywood Way.

Her shop is a little off the beaten path, and she said the passport helped direct people to her location. Blast from the Past plans on raffling off movie posters, action figures and card sets — just one of many giveaways planned for Holiday in the Park.

Next door, Jelly Bean Factory owner Ira Lippman is also getting ready for the night — although he has a little less to do for it these days. Lippman was the chairman of the business district board, helping coordinate its $250,000 budget. About 20% of that funded the Holiday in the Park and helped with logistics like closing the street for the festival. This year, Magnolia will not be closed.

“It is a cost; some people failed to see the value,” he said. “In the retail component it was widely supported.”

Without the funds there's less upkeep with the district's sidewalks (beyond what the city already provides). Lippman estimated it cost him about $1,100 a year for his building. That figure grew for owners or larger or multiple properties.

In a small shopping district where the stores and sometimes their buildings are locally owned, an event like this can be a good start to their holiday season. Getting people through the doors helps, but it's clearly not enough — the behavior they have to encourage needs to result in a sale.

Edie Stanley and her daughter, Jessica Oliver, took over the Swift boutique in September. After only a few weeks in business they've had little time to prepare for anything else, but do plan on offering a 25% discount on merchandise Friday night.

They've held similar sales for Magnolia Park's monthly “Ladies Night Out,” parties on Fridays that involve discounts, special events and food trucks.

“The discount gets the lady in the door but the food truck gets the guy,” Stanley said.

The community aspect is what merchants are trying to maintain, but in the end the sales are what count. That's why Holiday in the Park is held in mid-November — it's a week before Black Friday, and doesn't compete with Toluca Lake's holiday event the first weekend in December.

Friday's celebration is returning to its roots, a time before the Magnolia Park Partnership assisted with its creation, when business owners, neighbors and families could enjoy each other's company before the rush of the holidays set in.

“I hope people are walking around even if there isn't a passport card,” said Ross from Blast from the Past. “It's a fun way for us to kick off the holidays.”

BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he isn't cruising It's A Wrap for Hawaiian shirts from Magnum P.I., he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.

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