Sophia Fieldhouse's face lit up as actors dressed up as Elsa, Anna and Kristoff from Disney's “Frozen” walked up Saturday to Sharon's Victorian House of Gifts.
It wasn't the first celebrity appearance Sophia, 7, had enjoyed while helping out at her great-grandmother's store. Sharon Scrogham, the shop's owner, said the Nutcracker, Buddy the Elf and other characters stopped by the store last weekend.
But Sophia was stunned as she looked up at Elsa and Anna.
“She's been waiting for hours for the princesses,” Scrogham said.
The Downtown Improvement District is holding the Days of Holly Shopping event on the four Saturdays leading up to Christmas this year rather than holding a one-day shopping event, as the organization has done in the past.
Scrogham said she was happy for the change. About 800 people visited the store during the 2019 event.
This year, trolleys carrying customers are bringing a handful of shoppers at a time instead of about 15. The previous crowds were overwhelming for the store, which displays art and antiques in multiple rooms of a Victorian-era house.
“That was a lot for one day. We were trying to bag and keep track and make people happy,” Scrogham said. “Now we can help them a lot more.”
Sharon's Victorian House of Gifts is one of 34 downtown local businesses on the district's official map for the event, which also features listings for 56 downtown restaurants.
Shopping for holiday gifts at local businesses can lead to shoppers finding one-of-a-kind items or presents that come with a warm haze of nostalgia, such as memorabilia from Fort Wayne's Famous Coney Island Gift Shop.
Aaron Bentley, office manager, said the most popular gift from the shop is a pair of dress socks featuring hot dogs. This is the gift shop's busiest time of year by far, Bentley said, as people shop online and in-person for Coney Island attire.
Local residents can also shop online and pick up their order neatly packed in a Coney Island hot dog box.
Third World Fair Trade Shoppe is a way to shop locally while also buying ethically sourced gifts from all over the world. The charity organization sells items made from low-income artisans in more than 30 countries.
Marian Waltz of the Friends of the Third World said it's about helping people from less-fortunate countries earn money from items they make with what they have.
“In Nepal, what they have is wool,” Waltz said. “I almost sold out of these darling birds.”
Jim Waltz said they are able to provide addresses for the items they sell, which is something customers won't find at many stores.
“If somebody comes in here and says, 'I have relatives in Kolkata,' I can say, 'Well, we have something from north India,'” Jim Waltz said.
Sister Rita Musante now lives in Hartford City after living in Fort Wayne for about 10 years. She still shops at the fair trade shop for coffee and other gifts because she knows the items have been ethically sourced.
“It's a gift to me to be able to purchase a gift that I know the profit is going to go to the craftsperson,” she said.
• The Days of Holly Shopping by the Downtown Improvement District will continue Dec. 11 and 18. Passports and information about local businesses can be found at hollyshopping.com.