Venetian Bay businesses see last-minute shopping rush, restaurants expect holiday turnout

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Jack Lowenstein

It’s been a tough year for shops and restaurants during the pandemic, but businesses are hoping Christmas week gives them a much-needed boost.

We went to The Village Shops on Venetian Bay in Naples Thursday, where it’s a vital time for businesses.

Last-minute shoppers rushed out to make sure their friends and family would get the gifts they hoped for.

Those at shops we spoke to say there was a rush Christmas Eve when a lot of people like to be at home with family. It was a welcomed sight for small businesses.

“Yesterday was crazy as far as last-minute shoppers,” said Brooke Koch, the manager of Panache.

Koch says the 30-year-old boutique struggled like many other small businesses did during the pandemic.

“I mean, very scary,” Koch said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on. We had a lot of product left over because we ordered so much for February and March being season.”

A holiday rush was exactly what they needed.

“Actually, better than last year to be honest with you, which was surprising,” Koch said. “We’ve made sure that we have a lot of different ‘gifty’ items, and a lot of guys coming here shop for their wives.”

The shop Koch manages is a short walk away from John Phelp’s custom jewelry business, where he has been lucky to do pretty well during the pandemic.

“We are very, very blessed,” Koch said.

His shop has benefitted even more from the increased foot traffic this holiday season.

“I would say, on both on Tuesday and Wednesday, it was just nonstop,”’ said. “We had a stack of receipts that was really, really big, so we’re doing a lot of business.”

Both Phelps and Koch hope the trend continues.

“It’s been nice,” Koch said. “It’s been pretty busy, so we are very blessed.”

“Christmas week, this is like the week. This is the week,” said John Everding, the managing partner at Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar. “It’s different, it’s definitely different.”

Business has been slow due to the pandemic.

“We’ll see what happens. Christmas week is the telltale on where we’re going to be, what we can expect,” Everding said. “What I see so far, I’m pretty darn happy.”

Everding’s restaurant expects a good number of customers — 400 people Christmas Eve and 700 Christmas Day.

“We may have even been more, but with the weather looking a little bit chilly tomorrow, we have to, you know, plan B and C come into effect,” Everding said.

Fish Restaurant at The Village Shops also expects a turnout from patrons.

“We’ll hopefully do 300 as more as much better, so that’s what we’re hoping for,” said Branko Ovcharski, a server at Fish Restaurant.

After dipping into savings to help pay bills, Ovcharski is excited to finally get some big tips.

“Of course, like every other person, that’s how we make the living off,” Ovcharski said.

Both he and Everding are hopeful for the future.

“If there’s a bump in the road, we just approach it,” Everding said. “Restaurant people are adaptable if anything at all.”

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