Small businesses, and shoppers, return to holiday markets

NEW YORK (AP) — On a recent evening in early November, shoppers at the Bryant Park holiday market in New York City were in the holiday spirit well before Black Friday. The scent of pine wafted from candle sellers’ booths, people snapped up gingerbread cookies and hot apple cider and ice skaters swirled figure eights around the rink in the center of the market.

After two years of pandemic holidays when people spent more dollars online, shoppers are back in force in stores and at holiday markets. Small businesses say it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, both emotionally and financially.

“It’s definitely been busier than last year,” said Sallie Austin Gonzales, CEO of soap company SallyeAnder based in Beacon, New York. This is her second year at the Bryant Park market – officially called the Holiday Shops by Urbanspace at Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park.

“People are taking advantage of being a part of society again and walking around.”

Christmas markets have been popular in Germany and Austria, where they’re called Christkindlmarkets, and other parts of Europe for centuries. They’ve become more popular in the US over the past few decades, springing up in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, and many other cities. In New York, the Grand Central holiday market and the Union Square holiday market started in 1993.

Urbanspace now operates three holiday markets in New York: Bryant Park, Union Square and Columbus Circle. The pandemic put a damper on festivities in 2020, when only a scaled-back Bryant Park opened. Last year, Bryant Park was open at full capacity, but Union Square was at 80% capacity and Columbus Circle at 50%. This year, not only are all three markets at full capacity, Urbanspace is adding another one in Brooklyn that opens Nov. 28. Vendors apply for pop-up spaces and pay weekly or monthly rent to Urbanspace.

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