WARREN - When it comes to holiday shopping, Warren's downtown merchants don't worry too much about competing with area shopping malls and big box stores.
That's because they know being unique is the name of the game in drawing in shoppers, whether it's the Friday after Thanksgiving or the middle of July. And in that regard, several shops on Warren's Courthouse Square have the market cornered.
''Fifty percent of my business comes from around the Mahoning Valley,'' said Warren jeweler Thom Duma. ''We realize we are in downtown Warren. We are a destination location for sure. It's really about going above and beyond because of our location.''
Pat Galgozy, Trumbull Art Gallery executive director, looks over artwork offered for sale in the museum’s west gallery in downtown Warren. The piece is a painting titled “Spring Haze” by Youngstown artist Mary Pinter.
Duma believes the niche market comes from experience. Providing extraordinary customer service and creating what Duma described as a "wow experience" is what makes repeat customers and has helped Duma achieve success.
It also doesn't hurt that Thom Duma Jewelers has a niche as the only dealer between Cleveland and Pittsburgh for Rolex watches. Duma was proud to say he's had the highest success he's ever had in the last two years.
''We do have high-end brands, but we try to be inclusive, not exclusive,'' he said.
He spoke as he unlocked a jewelry case to show a Rolex that retails for more than $43,000. For comparison, he pulled out a second Rolex watch with a $345 price tag.
''Since April '09 we have been increasing and exceeding goals every year,'' Duma said. ''There's no doom and gloom here. It's all sugar and candy canes,'' he said with a smile.
Although he acknowledges high hopes for holiday sales, he notes that his business does not hang everything on December.
Down the street at Trumbull Art Gallery, executive director Pat Galgozy showed off the west gallery full of paintings and other wall hangings by area artists that can be purchased and taken home on the spot.
''This is very affordable art; nothing is more than $200,'' Galgozy said. Also in the gallery's gift shop are jewelry, cards, photography, scultures, glass art, scarves, wood and metal works and more, all handmade and all from local artists within a 100-mile radius.
Galgozy said the gift shop does a wonderful business during gallery openings, with about 70 percent of the sales going back to the artists. While the holidays do bring in sales, she said the gallery openings and repeat visits probably generate more sales.
This year, the gallery at 198 E. Market St. is hosting a holiday open house noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30.
Also on the square, Gene's Jewelers this year is focusing on drawing visitors into the downtown store with Black Friday giveaways of an iPad Mini with a purchase of more than $1,499 or an iPad with larger purchase of $2,499.
Store owners Tom Crowley and Patricia Fleeger said a similar promotion last year was very successful. They say a large part of their business comes from the holiday season, and so they do what they can to draw shoppers to them as a special destination.
''We are positive and hope for the best,'' Crowley said. ''We do our best to try to bring business in downtown.''
Still other merchants know that Christmas doesn't mean big sales for them, but that's OK.
''Our business actually slows down over the holidays,'' said Greg Bartholomew, owner of All-American Cards and Comics, also on the Square. ''I do run a Black Friday sale. We still do good numbers in December, but it's not like in the past.''
Bartholomew said he knows his business is the kind that benefits year-round from shoppers who buy themselves gifts and collectibles. So at the holidays, those shoppers might not spend as much in the comic book store because they are buying for someone else.
''I don't glitz and glitter and put up 1,000 trees. We are what we are, and that's why I have been here for 20 years. We have got some wonderful stores down here. We do have a great downtown for destination businesses,'' he said.