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In-store, online shopping for the holidays

Sure, you can find dozens of specialty retail stores in Ashland, offering an abundance of gifts for the holidays. But how about the convenience of shopping in one place online or filling out an online wish list?

If that’s your cup of tea, you can find that in Ashland as well, thanks to a new program offered by the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.

Launched this month as part of helping Ashland compete for holiday shopping business, ShopAshlandOregon.com is a website where you can browse through dozens of Ashland specialty shops from the comfort of your home. The site puts all the storefronts at your fingertips where you can buy gifts and gift certificates while supporting the local community.

Businesses which aren’t yet participating but are interested in joining are invited to contact the chamber as it builds out the site.

On the same website, you can set up a free user account and create a wish list which family and friends can access to buy gifts for you.

It’s convenient, all right, but many locals who have been cooped up during the pandemic will welcome an opportunity to visit Ashland’s shops in person to see what’s new for the holidays and enjoy the festive decorations.

“Businesses are providing a shopping environment where safety is of the utmost importance,” said Dana Preston, membership and business development director for the chamber.

“It’s the time of year when people treat themselves to extra special holiday outings,” she said. “It’s especially important to support our local businesses this year. They have been here for our community, supporting our schools, sports, arts and more.”

For those who aren’t comfortable venturing out, many shops and restaurants also offer curbside pickup or home delivery.

Most people are aware that internet giants like Amazon don’t help pay for local police and fire protection or pave the streets. But some might be surprised at the quality and variety of products available in local stores, Preston said.

“Shopping local is an incredible experience, something that Ashland retailers do so well,” she said. “The pandemic has shifted what the experience of retail is, but Ashland businesses have been nimble and creative. They have incredible products to share, and product lines are curated to meet the needs of the Ashland community.”

Some of the traditions of pre-pandemic Ashland Christmas openings had to be canceled this year, but new events have been added.

Although downtown is lit up for the holidays, there will be no parade or Santa’s grand illumination ceremony in the Ashland Plaza.

“However, we are creating videos for our website and social media channels, featuring our good buddy Santa and friends,” Preston said. “We also will record the official switch being flipped to turn on the lights and post that, too.”

Just for fun, the chamber is creating Rudolph’s Scavenger Hunt for the 2020 Christmas season.

“Sneaky Rudolph will hide his deer brothers and sisters all over Ashland,” Preston said. “And it’s up to kids and families to find them before Christmas Eve and win prizes. It’s a fun activity that families can enjoy outside in a safe manner.”

Game details will be available Nov. 27 on the chamber website.

The chamber will kick off another promotion on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28, called Love Ashland Local. Shoppers can enter multiple drawings for prizes during the shopping season.

Here’s how it works: Text “SHOP” to 541-482-3486 to participate. Then, every time you shop a local store in person or online, or dine in a local restaurant or order takeout, text a photo of your receipt or proof of purchase to the same number. Each time you do that, you get two entries into the prize drawings.

The chamber’s gift certificate program, begun in 2007, continues this year. Certificates good at any participating business can be purchased at the chamber office or online and be given to friends and family.

It not only allows the recipient to choose something for herself, it also ensures the money stays in the community, Preston said.

Ashland business owners say that locals have been loyal during the pandemic, and they appreciate that.

Pam Hammond of the Paddington group of stores says customers not only have shopped in-store, but also online and via curbside delivery and home delivery. All four of the Paddington stores’ shop windows are already dressed to the nines for the holidays.

Julie Harden, owner of the Pelindaba Lavender store in Ashland, says a few loyal customers even made multiple purchases during the two months the store was closed during the pandemic.

“Every day, at least one customer asks how is business and expresses their concern for the well-being of businesses in this town,” Harden said.

For updates, information, and to purchase gift certificates, go to ashlandchamber.com.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Sarah Gore, left, and Pam Hammond put the final touches on a large Christmas tree as the centerpiece of the window display at Paddington Express in downtown Ashland. Hammond is co-owner of Paddington Station and its associated stores and looks forward to a busy holiday shopping season. Jim Flint photo.