Downtown Rochester shop owner Christine Laikind didn't sit down Saturday. Her feet and hips ached at the end of the day. But she's not complaining.
Laikind, owner of Firebrick Gallery and Pottery Studio, said she didn't take a break from the time her shop opened at 10 a.m. Saturday until it closed at 9 that night. In fact, she ran out of sales receipts and had to send her husband out for more.
Was it the Big, Bright Lights that brought people downtown? "I think so," she said.
Laikind was among the downtown merchants who have reported this has been their busiest season to date.
Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, has heard their stories — and seen for herself.
"People are shopping again," said Trevarrow, creator of the show that lights up Rochester with 1.5 million LED lights each night of the season.
"They're coming downtown to see the lights. It's gotten to the point where people are making it just one of the things they do in December.
"But then this year they're not just driving through, they're getting out of their cars and shopping and eating. The economy is picking up."
That line up the hill
Trevarrow found barely a parking spot at 5:30 Saturday night when she came downtown for dinner.
"It seems to be our best season ever," she said. "I can't put my finger on what it is. But I know there's a line up the hill just to get into the town to see the lights."
On Saturday, Renee Perkins, who lives in Rochester Hills and owns The Funky Frog downtown, said she saw traffic backed up to Hamlin Road to get into downtown. That's two miles.
"A lot of our store owners are saying this past weekend they had their busiest day ever," Trevarrow said.
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, this coming Saturday is expected to be one of the busiest of the shopping season.
A survey released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation found that the average person has only completed 46.5 percent of their shopping — less than the 49.5 percent the average shopper had completed by this same time last year.
So what will this Saturday bring?
Alexis Zuccaro is manager of O'Connor's Public House. The Irish pub doesn't take reservations, but it does take requests for call-ahead seating. Zuccaro said Wednesday morning that people have already called ahead for this weekend.
She echoed Trevarrow's observations about the bustle of the season. "It's definitely the lights," Zuccaro said. "We are seeing groups of people who travel to see the lights and have dinner."
Last Saturday O'Connor's had groups in from Canton, Southfield and even Canada.
"We're expecting another really nice crowd this Saturday," she said.