There wasn’t much frost in downtown Frederick on Frosty Friday. But the warm weather and sunny skies brought out a bustling stream of shoppers who traded the lure of chain stores and malls on Black Friday for the promise of downtown charm, unique gifts and a festive community atmosphere.
“We wanted to avoid the big crowds,” said John Jefferson of Frederick, who joined the smaller Frosty Friday crowds with his wife Michelle.
Instead of going to the mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Jeffersons chose to start their Christmas shopping downtown while enjoying the mild weather. After weaving in and out of specialty and gift stores for a few hours, they had stocked up handmade bracelets, vintage items and children’s gifts.
“We can always go to the chain stores,” John Jefferson said. “It’s our first time doing Frosty Friday downtown and it so much more relaxed. … In no way it feels like you have to be in a hurry.”
With carolers roaming the streets and horse-drawn carriages offering rides through the historic part of town, the event allows visitors to shop, dine, listen to live music and sink into the quaint atmosphere of downtown Frederick.
Thanks in part to the beautiful weather, hundreds of people streamed downtown on Frosty Friday. By early afternoon, it already was hard to navigate through the packed sidewalks along Market Street.
That was a good sign for Eli Roth, associate director of promotion and development for the Downtown Frederick Partnership, which has been organizing the event for eight years as a way to bring business downtown.
An all-day event, Frosty Friday kicked off at 9 a.m. and offered a chance for dining, shopping and entertainment for visitors of all ages.
“I would not be surprised if we have 20,000 people,” said Roth, who said he was pleased with the turnout.
Roth did not handle the event last year, and could not compare the previous year’s turnout to this year.
It is difficult to determine how much money the event generates in total for downtown businesses, Roth said. But it is usually more than $350,000, which is the estimate of what downtown businesses make during each month’s First Saturday celebrations, Roth said.
First Saturday is a monthly event that features dining, shopping and entertainment.
“I would say that this day would bring more,” he said.
Based on the first part of the day, downtown business owners also were happy with the crowds.
While most downtown restaurants had lines of waiting patrons, many stores also were packed with customers.
At the Candy Kitchen chocolate and candy store, shoppers had been coming in all day to stock up on candy for the holidays or to get snacks to munch on while shopping, said employee Lavonne Hill.
“It’s been bustling. It’s comparable to last year,” said Hill, who expected more than 300 customers to pass through the store during the day.
Gilian Berluti, manager of the Firestone’s Market on Market Street, said she had a steady crowd of shoppers throughout the morning. Most shoppers were looking for small specialty food items that could become stocking stuffers, she said.
“It’s not our biggest day of the year, but for a Friday, it’s a very good Friday,” she said.
Frederick residents Jessica and Christopher Ellenstar said they usually buy all their Christmas presents downtown, where they can find unique gifts and a personal connection with store owners.
It is a completely different experience from going to the mall, said Jessica Ellenstar.
“People like to have a personal relationship with the places where they do business,” she said.