By LIBBY CUDMORE• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – There’s only one place you can get board games, maple syrup, artisan jewelry and a new tattoo – Southside Mall.
“We’re a small mall, but what we have is a large shopping experience,” said Luisa Montanti, Southside Mall general manager.
Starting Black Friday, the mall welcomed 16 artisans and local food producers to set up tables to sell their wares, including Caribou Creek Knives, Rusted Root Metals and more.
The tables will be at the mall every weekend throughout December, offering a variety of gifts.
“Caribou Creek has all these hand-crafted knives and decorative blades, including ones for hunting and cutting meat, or even cutting salad,” said Montanti. “And I bought myself a fancy bracelet from Lynn Price, that makes all this jewelry out of antique buttons. It’s all one-of-a-kind, and that’s what I love about it.”
The idea of bringing in tables at Christmas grew out of the mall’s annual Craft & Vendor Fair. “The artisans always say what a great weekend they have here,” said the manager. “And what’s great is that they’re all unique, so we’re not duplicating shops we already have. There really is something for everyone.”
To launch the Christmas season, dancing mice from Decker School of Ballet made an appearance Saturday, Nov. 30.
And, of course, Santa Claus, available for visits and photos, will visit from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday until Dec. 23.
Also new this season is Luncheons & Dragons, a game store that relocated from the West End, now in the former FYE storefront.
“I was really impressed at just how large a selection of games they have and that they’re so knowledgeable about board games,” she said. “And they also have tables where you can sit down and play a game, or join one that’s already in progress. Their philosophy is that they wanted to create a space where people could congregate.”
Another staple, Black Tree Books, has re-opened under new ownership, and, for the person who already has everything, Something Wicked Tattoo will open this week.
Several local Christmas pop-up stores are returning, including Theresa’s Emporium, in the old Etc., Etc. storefront, the Go Calendar, Games & Toys kiosk, and Fire & Thunder Trading.
“Fire & Thunder has one of the largest selections of Native American jewelry and textiles,” Montanti said. “The owner tours trade shows all year, and then comes to the mall every year at the holidays because he has a great following. People look for him.”
Though the holidays are generally the strongest time for retailers, Montanti said store managers are reporting that sales have been up throughout the whole year.
“So many of them have come to me and said how great their gains have been,” she said. “I’d say it’s anywhere between 12-30 percent for the year. The mall is seeing a huge success, and I think other stores want to be a part of that.”