by Bri Kilroy | photos by Victoria Upton and Sarah Anderson
Picturing the endeavor of holiday shopping brings about the experience of spending time barricaded in the mall, weaving through countless racks of mimicked pieces, having your mission halted by a line miles away from the register, and being conflicted between wanting to get thoughtful gifts for your loved ones and wanting to bolt from the chaotic crowd that thickens the closer it gets to December 25. Uptown Grand Rapids gifts us an alternative that replaces department stores with local boutiques, crowds of strangers with huddles of neighbors, food court fare with neighborhood restaurants and the opportunity to resurrect the joy of holiday shopping at the annual Uptown Holiday Shop Hop.
Celebrating its 20th year recreating the charm of strolling through the city during a time when everything was built closer together, the Holiday Shop Hop is a one-night event where the four Uptown business districts (East Fulton, East Hills, Eastown and Wealthy) extend their open hours to 10 p.m. and invite community members inside to experience the quality of shopping local. Joel Carrier of Bluedoor Antiques & Elements (946 Fulton St.) came up with the idea for the neighborhood shopping event in 1997, when the inventory of participating businesses stretched along a strip of Fulton. The Holiday Shop Hop would not only give local boutiques, eateries and services a chance to strongly promote their craft as an ensemble; it would host an enchanting setting for locals to knock out their wish list and discover the neighborhood without needing to get in and out of the car.
This year’s holiday shopping event is prepped to include more stops than ever as new businesses (so fresh they aren’t even identified on Google maps yet) populate the areas, filling the gaps between historic neighborhoods and blocks of shops. Wealthy Street, especially, is home to many of Uptown’s newest additions including Dime & Regal handmade jewelry (656 Wealthy St.), Woosah Outfitters’ new space (738 Wealthy St.) and Bradley’s Home & Garden furniture and décor store (1502 Wealthy St.).
The four districts that make up Uptown encompass two square miles of the city, making the area pleasantly walkable. Shoppers can free themselves from scouting for parking as they hop from one place to another by settling their vehicle in one of the nearby lots or along the street. Not depriving you from the option of traveling by wheels, the Holiday Shop Hop provides a free trolley service running every 15 minutes at 17 stops throughout the districts.
The timeless magnificence that comes from the Holiday Shop Hop is embedded in the attention Uptown gives to maintaining the area’s integrity, dating back to the late 1800s.
“The area is not meant for high traffic,” Uptown Corridor Manager, Christine Helms-Maletic, said. “It’s meant to park and walk between the shops, have a bite at a local eatery and run into some of your neighbors.”
In addition to seeing some friendly faces in the comfort of your community, the event features entertainment to accompany shoppers on their stroll and add a further touch of old-timey holiday enjoyment to the evening. Carolers, choirs and the Salvation Army Band are set to bring festive tunes to the event, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus are around doing some browsing of their own.
Whether you begin your evening with a street name-inspired sandwich at Cherry Deli & Catering (834 Cherry St. SE) in East Hills, a drink at Harmony Brewing Company (1551 Lake Dr. SE) in Eastown or a specialty coffee drink at Lightfast Coffee + Art (944 East Fulton St.), make sure you stop by the Uptown HUB at Fulton Street Farmers Market (1147 East Fulton St.). The indoor vendor space to the left of the pavilion’s entrance on Fulton serves as Shop Hop headquarters, where you can pick up a map of Uptown along with a free gift when you join their email list.
Experience the joy of shopping local by designing a night with friends and/or family where you try out a new restaurant, visit the dynamic mix of shops and galleries, admire the sprinkle of ice sculptures throughout the routes and chisel away at that holiday wish list. Learn more about Uptown businesses, services and locations by visiting the business directory at Uptowngr.com/locations.
Now get out there, Grand Rapids, and get yourself something nice.
What: Uptown Holiday Shop Hop
Where: Uptown business districts East Fulton, East Hills, Eastown and Wealthy Street. Shop Hop HUB located at Fulton Street Farmers Market, 1147 East Fulton St. Map available at Uptowngr.com.
When: December 7, 4-10 p.m.
Why: Because you’ve been good this year.