Getting ready for ‘the most wonderful time’

Carol Reesha, owner of Barn & Charm in Newhall decorates a cave's head which has been a holiday tradition at the store for years. Dan Watson/The Signal

As the holiday season draws near, businesses everywhere are beginning to prepare for their busiest time of the year, including a community of mom-and-pop shops in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Many begin preparing for the holidays simply by decorating their stores.

“When it comes to holiday flair, we believe it’s either go big or go home,” said Brett Syslo, the owner of Groom and Play in Canyon Country, adding that decorating is essential to their business strategy. “On top of decorating our shop, we also add festive bandanas to the animals we bath or groom and send out holiday cards to our customers.”

Though Barn and Charm in Newhall has already started decorating for the fall, they’ve decided to only bring out Christmas decor after Halloween has passed. After that, they leave it up to their vendors.

“Each vendor pretty much goes with their unique style, and we’re all for that because shoppers get a different taste of each one, which keeps it interesting,” owner Carol Reesha said, adding that they tend to gear a lot of their products towards gift-giving, such as stocking stuffers that are easy and practical.

Over at FastFrame in Valencia, owners/operators Randy and Rosemarie Burzynski spend much of their time in October trying to get ahead of the busy season, making sure that all of the work they have gets finished as quickly as possible — while they also begin to purchase additional materials to stock up as early as September. “We start early and work fast,” Randy said.

Saugus Drugs prepares for the holidays. Cory Rubin/The Signal

They also decorate their store, including a Christmas tree that they use to hang ornaments as part of the Be a Santa to a Senior program, which allows customers to pick up an ornament with a senior’s gift request and return with a gift to give. 

Much of the preparation at Saugus Drugs consists of transitioning holiday stock onto its shelves, and they, too, start to trickle it out as it gets closer to Halloween, though Hallmark ornaments can come out as early as July, according to general manager Jim Berkebile.

“The biggest change is right when Halloween is done,” he said. “We literally have about a week to yank all of Halloween down and try and get Christmas out.”

They go off of specific calendars as to when to put a lot of their products out, but “a lot of it has to come out because we just don’t have space to store it in back,” he added.

Though advertising is year-round for Classic Designs Jewelry in Valencia, they pay particular attention to ads during the busy season.

“We keep in communication with our customers via text message, emails, direct mail and advertising,” owner Apo Yessayan said, adding that their primary goal is to keep their customers happy. “Plain and simple, our strategy is to focus on customer service. We treat everybody like VIPs.”

Barn & Charm in Newhall is decorated for Halloween. Dan Watson/The Signal

They aren’t known for giving discounts as they do a lot of custom work and special requests, sometimes even last minute if they can accommodate it.

Similarly, as a custom framing store, FastFrame makes everything in-house. 

“We don’t do a lot of specials, as custom framing is what it is — it’s custom,” Rosemarie Burzynski said, adding that each customer receives personalized service. “We pride ourselves in designing something to be the best it can be, and we feel very strongly about that.”

They, too, accommodate last minute orders, yet as each piece is personalized from design to completion, it also means that each piece takes time to make and they can only accommodate so many.

Though Saugus Drugs typically discounts products after the holidays, they rarely do so beforehand.

“We haven’t done a lot of that in the past, even though I know a lot of the bigger stores do,” Berkebile said, adding that as a smaller store, they can’t afford to do so.

Carol Reesha, owner of Barn & Charm in Newhall hangs a holiday ornament amid fall decorations. Dan Watson/The Signal

Others, like Groom and Play, are planning to give customers who book services the week before Christmas small gifts.

Similarly, Barn and Charm offers specials during planned events “to make it enjoyable and easy shopping for customers,” Reesha said.

In addition to their normal craft workshops, they offer open houses and other special events in-store, complete with giveaways, raffles, discounts and gift bags.

“We also try and bring customers in during events in Newhall,” she said, such as during the tree-lighting ceremony in Old Town Newhall.

Regardless of whether it’s a small gift or on the high-end range, almost all stores noted a significant increase in business over the holidays.

“Every business is unique, but we certainly get busy during the holidays, especially after Thanksgiving through the end of January,” Yessayan said. “Historically, our busiest month is December, and on average, retail jewelry stores like this would get 20% to 25% of its annual gross during the month of December.”

Saugus Drugs prepares for the holidays. Cory Rubin/The Signal

While Saugus Drugs sees an increase in business, Berkebile credits that to the mail center located in its store, which brings a lot of customers into the location.

At FastFrame, business nearly doubles over the holiday season, and normally comes in two phases, according to the Burzynskis.

The first comes in November as residents are also preparing for the holidays and begin to think of what they’d like to get done before their guests arrive, such as ordering custom mirrors, freshening up current wall decor, or framing gifts they hadn’t gotten to; the second wave comes in December, when many are ready to begin purchasing gifts.

“In the grooming industry, the holidays, particularly the fall leading up to Christmas, are some of the busiest times of the year,” Syslo said. “Pet owners want their dogs and cats looking great for Christmas photos or for relatives to see.”

Barn & Charm in Newhall decorates for the holidays. Dan Watson/The Signal

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