TARPON SPRINGS – ’Twas a month before Christmas and throughout Tarpon Springs all the merchants could hear was their cash registers sing…
OK, so that might be a crummy Christmas carol, but many business owners were in a festive mood last weekend, as the combination of Small Business Saturday, the Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Show and the final Wine Walk of the year made the city a mecca of shopping, sipping and strolling.
Thousands of visitors poured into the downtown district and the Sponge Docks on Saturday, Nov. 30. More than 700 tickets were sold for the Wine Walk, according to officials with the Tarpon Springs Merchants Association, organizers of the event.
“The last one was a little down because it was still hot out,” Merchants Association member Carol Rodriguez said as she helped hand out tickets to a long line of guests outside One Amazing Find on East Tarpon Avenue. “But we could have a record turnout tonight thanks to the cool weather and the other events going on in town.”
Around the corner, on Court Street, organizers of the 2019 Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Show agreed.
“This morning the street was completely packed,” Suzanne King, owner of SIK Promotions, said as she surveyed the vendor booths lined up and down Court and inside the Mother Meres parking lot. “It was a great opening to the show, and we hope it continues throughout the weekend.”
While the events are designed to bring out-of-town visitors to the city, they benefit Tarponites, also.
“You pass by these shops every day, but you don’t go in,” 50-year Tarpon resident Penny Zervos said, voicing concerns that have gripped many local merchants. “Plus, I had visitors in town, so this gives them a chance to see Tarpon Springs by walking around.”
For those who didn’t wish to push their step-counter past 10,000, a pair of Jolley Trolleys were on hand to shuttle visitors back and forth between the downtown district and the Sponge Docks, where the world-famous tourist destination had a festive air, thanks to the colorful holiday decorations and a large crowd of wine-loving revelers.
“We had a line down the street that didn’t let up for over an hour,” said City Commissioner Rea Sieber, the Wine Walk founder, who owns a wine shop on Dodecanese Boulevard where tickets are sold. “It’s been nonstop, which is great for the merchants at the docks as well as downtown.”
Over on Athens Street, which is quickly becoming a docks hotspot off the Dodecanese Boulevard main drag, music wafted into the cloudless sky from behind Tarpon Strings, a music shop owned by musician Yannis Panagiotis.
“I’ve been in the music business my whole life and played all around the world, and I wanted to build a place that treats artists the way I want to be treated,” Panagiotis said of his hybrid shop. It features live performances on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, instrument repair and lessons as well as e-bike repairs, sales and rentals.
“I grew up here and was given a chance to make it, and now I want to give back.”
As the night wound down, the wine supply ran low and the Trolleys finished making their loops, the merchants began to pack up, weary from the long day but buoyed by the impressive turnout.
“I got here at 11 a.m. just to set up and I haven’t left,” Back Draughts Pizza owner George Walts said as he made homemade zeppolis for Wine Walkers outside his Tarpon Ave restaurant. “Not that I’m complaining.”