By JASON DUNOVANT
Rain did not deter hundreds of children and their parents from meeting with Santa on Saturday. The large crowd packed into Bridgewater Plaza bringing in some welcome holiday traffic to the shopping center’s stores.
Santa’s arrival and an Elf on the Shelf drawing also helped to promote Small Business Saturday. The national movement, organized by American Express, helps bring communities together in support of small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Bridewater Marina partner Ryan Waters said the annual event brings a lot of traffic to his Bridgewater Sportswear store each year. While the increased traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into sales, he said it helps visitors to get to know the store and encourages them to come back.
Most of all, Waters said the goal is to just do something for the community. “It is really all for the kids,” he said.
This year, Santa met with children at Smith Mountain Lake Coffee House, which had more room for visitors than Bridgewater Sportswear, which was used last year.
Smith Mountain Lake Coffee House co-owner Kevin Gray said he was excited to host Santa this year. Since opening in May and enjoying a busy summer season, Gray said traffic at the coffee shop has slowed; however, he expected Saturday’s event to help his bottom line.
“We are expecting it will be about double what we have been doing during the winter,” Gray said.
Recent work to expand the coffee house into a neighboring shop had been fast-tracked for Santa’s arrival and while work was not yet complete on Saturday, Gray said they finished enough of the space to host Santa and the children who came to visit him.
“We got it ready for Santa,” Gray said.