by Kathryn Milhorn
Despite everything this year has thrown our way, it’s time to add holidays into the mix. Even though many large gatherings are on hold, finding delightful gifts for friends and family are what make the season bright…figuratively speaking, since it’s pitch dark by 4:30 p.m. As you review our region’s finest artisans, small businesses and downtown destinations, let Ruthann Goularte from Drees be your gifty guru.
Drees has been open since 1929, with Goularte at the helm since 1976. They have weathered many storms and seen trends and home fashions change throughout the years. But through it all, Drees has been a pillar of Olympia’s retail market for nearly a century.
As we know too well, however, this year has been unique. Visits are “changing because it is the crazy year 2020,” admits Goularte. “From what we see at Drees, people are shopping earlier and happy to see Thanksgiving and Christmas in the shop. They are shopping thoughtfully, and they are shopping more generously but for fewer people.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, “We are shipping more. We have seen fewer gift exchanges and office gifts, but it is still early. Of course, online is growing fast for all age groups due to COVID-19. We see people wanting Christmas around them in their homes for themselves versus entertaining.”
With so many years in the industry, Goularte knows the benefits of splurging to celebrate our loved ones. “This year, our friends and family that are compromised health-wise and alone are at the top of the list for us. We are doing small Thanksgiving and Christmas treat boxes that are meant to cheer up those that are quarantined, alone, or feeling the emotional effects of COVID in the world.”
When shopping, take a few minutes to plan and remember that “Less is more—and it’s truly the thought that counts. One good quality item, large or small: foods, candles or olive oils, garnished simply, is what I think people appreciate most. A personal message makes it even better.”
And as is true every year, stay local and buy local. Not only is it a safer option thanks to online and telephone ordering with curbside pick-up, but your dollars are also put back into the community to benefit small businesses and families all around us.
At Drees, their team offers complimentary gift wrap and will mail gifts nationwide. They’ll also take phone orders of items showcased on their Facebook or Instagram pages. If you prefer a more personalized touch, staff are scheduling appointments for private shopping, offer phone and Facetime consultations and will do whatever it takes to make your holidays bright.
For some, funds are tight and stressors high. But that’s ok too; presents aren’t the only reason for the season. “Try for some kind of joy,” says Goularte. “One foot in front of the other. Do something new, a new way to think about others. Reconnect, write, think of others who may need to hear from you. It’s such a different year; remember to accept how you feel. This is not a time for guilt.”
Between blustery weather, social distancing restrictions and uncertain times, celebrations may feel silly. But don’t give up on the joy. Goularte, above all, has hope. “Hope that Olympia returns to the charming city it can be, a place for all people, grandmothers and grandbabies, to enjoy. We are on the water, with great views, clean air and a real downtown; now let’s protect the livability for future generations,” as Drees founders have done for decades.
“At Drees, part of our mission is to provide that joy. Jimmie Drees, our founder, used to have the words, ‘Enjoy our Browsepitality’ on his windows. People have told us they come to enjoy the shop and get a bit away from all that is happening globally. We hope, especially this year, we will provide joy!”
A recent report from the Cleveland Clinic sums things up. “Studies show that giving can boost your physical and mental health. (Good news in today’s world where many people are suffering from a global pandemic’s emotional complications.)… There’s just something about the delight of gift-giving that makes us feel good, but there’s science backing it up.”
When you’re ready to tackle Santa’s list, treat yourself to a stroll through downtown Olympia, virtually or in person. No matter what you’re looking for, Goularte and her fellow small business elves have got you covered. Let’s send 2020 off in style.