The Westerville Uptown Merchants Association is encouraging residents to shop close to home for the holidays.
The group, which promotes Uptown Westerville's more than 40 businesses, will host its annual Home for the Holidays open house beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
From 3 to 6 p.m., businesses will host children's activities, and Santa Claus will stroll through the streets.
A Gal Named Cinda Lou, 20 N. State St., will have a cookie decorating for children; Outside Envy, 15 N. State St., will have a station for writing letters to Santa; DeDe and Dolly, 34 N. State St., will have ornament making and story time with the soon-to-open Zen Kidz; and Uptown Hair Design, 12 E. College Ave., will have a holiday village in the window.
In the evening, carolers will stroll through Uptown, and businesses will light luminaries.
Java Central, 20 S. State St., will have live music, and Chocolaterie Stam, 79 S. State St., will host the local band Free Range Chicken.
Amish Originals, 38 N. State St., will have chair massages, a coloring station for children, an artist to personalize ornaments and cookies and cider for customers from 5 to 8 p.m.
Also through December, many Uptown businesses will have extended evening hours to give more people an opportunity to shop locally for the holidays, said Debbie Bennati, owner of A Gal Named Cinda Lou and president of the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association.
Uptown Westerville can provide shoppers with a personal experiences they are unlikely to find in national retail stores, Bennati said.
"It's a traditional place. You get to meet store owners who are personal with you and careful with you and help you find gifts," she said. "You develop friendships. People come back to see what you have new, and they come back and bring their families."
Shopping small businesses also keeps money in the local economy, Bennati said.
"When you shop local, you are investing in your community," Bennati said.
Many people don't realize how many businesses, and the variety of goods, that are available in Uptown.
In the last year alone, Uptown has added about nine new businesses, selling everything from local art to gourmet olive oils to handmade items imported from Peru, Bennati said.
"We just have a big variety of things, and people don't realize there are over 40 businesses in Uptown," she said. "We've got so many different personalities, a lot of things that other communities don't have."