Merchants hope for holiday sales boost

'Tis the season to do some shopping, that much is known. But will the season's holiday bonuses and free spending translate into business for Dorchester and Mattapan merchants? Or will the one-stop malls and Internet sites rake it all in?

Stuart Rosenberg, the president of the Mattapan Board of Trade, does not hold out too much hope for a sales bonanza.

"We are always optimistic now and the retail has changed so much over the years, and now with the Internet even more," Rosenberg said. "The mom and pops, the real micromanagement kind of people, are having a struggle."

Rosenberg says even the best businesses stay flat this time of year, just treading water.

"I really couldn't say that it is better or that it hopes to be better, and I just have a feeling at best it will remain at the status quo."

The Four Corner's Main Streets group is nervous about a slow season also. But they instituted a new idea for holiday shoppers, a 'Four Corners passport,' good at any number of participating local shops. The idea, director Shelly Goehring explains, is that passport holders who spend over $10 at participating shops will get a stamp. The first sixteen people to get four stamps and bring them to Main Streets will receive gift certificates.

Then, on Dec. 18, they will raffle off $25 dollar gift certificates for those who have completed their passport journey.

"The whole goal is trying to encourage people to shop in the neighborhood, and eat in our restaurants," Goehring said. "If you are out at the mall, at least stop and pick up dinner at one of our restaurants. The fear is people are at the malls and then they are going to eat there too, but just come get your pizza here."

Binh Kiem Duong, owner of Brenda's Flowers and Gifts at 1726 Dorchester Avenue, says he almost always sees a large boost in sales during the season, usually around a 20 percent jump.

"It is the second biggest season we have," he said, pointing out that Valentine's is by far the best. "It started picking up already and it gets crazy around mid-December."

As a business built on selling flowers and centerpieces, Kiem Duong also can receive some help from out-of-towners ringing in orders for local loved ones. He says the poinsettias and centerpieces fly off the shelves.

His sister has a different view on the season, though still optimistic as a brand new entrepreneur at Iwireless. Binh Mong Duong says she isn't quite sure what to expect but she is getting ready anyway. After working with her brother, she opened her own cell phone and accessory shop this year and she hopes her business gets a similar boost.

"I'm not really sure because the store has only been open for two months," she said. "I did add to a little bit more than what I usually order."