PICTURES: Candlelight Shopping offers village visitors a ‘whimsical’ experience

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Happy shoppers on a shuttle bus pose for a photo at Candlelight Shopping in Chepachet. NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo.

GLOCESTER – A holiday tradition has returned to the village of Chepachet – for the first of three December evenings – with the first this past Thursday, Dec. 7. 

Crowds of families, couples and other cheerful looking people braved bumper-to-bumper traffic and bone-chilling cold for Candlelight Shopping in Chepachet. Holiday music, decorated shops, and vintage street lights added to the festive atmosphere in the village on Putnam Pike.   

Shopping by candlelight in December, “brings a little excitement into our store,” said sales associate Lori Farnum at Chepachet Village Wine and Spirits. “We have fun giving away eggnog. People are always jovial.” 

Visitors took photos with a life-like animated and talking Santa Claus inside the shop, or outside with the life-size Santa in his sleigh, pulled by reindeer and led by red-nosed Rudolph. 

Ken Neri – NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo

“I think it’s great for business. We see familiar and unfamiliar faces,” said sales associate Ken Neri of the annual events.

Up the street at Friendship Lodge #7, Keith Doucette, Technology Education teacher from East Greenwich High School, stood outside with his manufacturing class students at a table covered with the kids’ hand-crafted items, such as Christmas decorations. Proceeds from the sales of the young adults’ handiwork will benefit the Northern Rhode Island Food Bank, said Doucette.

From left to right are East Greenwich teacher Keith Doucette, with students Owen Monaghan, Harrison Carrazzo, Cole Arsenault, Natalie Carrazzo and Jack Drolet. NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo

On the same side of Putnam Pike as Friendship Lodge #7, at The Town Trader bustling antiques and collectibles shop, Santa Claus and his Mrs. were seated in red velvet Victorian chairs at a back nook – crowded with Christmas present possibilities and filled with chatting and happy-looking customers.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus – NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo

“We enjoy doing this every year,” said Santa Claus, “It’s a pleasure seeing kids and adults who act like kids.”

Mr. Claus – who bore a striking resemblance to Ernie “Snooky” Ducharme – said it was he and Mrs. Claus’s sixth year participating in candlelight Thursdays. 

“We thank Charlie Wilson for starting this. It’s wonderful,” said Mrs. Claus about her and Santa’s holiday visits to the store. Mrs. Claus could be the twin of Zelda Ducharme, wife of Ernie. 

The Town Trader owners Charlie Wilson and Dave Mercier were like Santa’s helpers, busily working the shop’s counter. About this first December evening of candlelight shopping, Wilson said, “it’s a wonderful night. Great people are coming out tonight even though it’s cold.”

Charlie Wilson, at right, with customers Steve Munroe and Amber Allen, and Dave Mercier in the background.

Customer Steve Munroe was waiting in line with Amber Allen at The Town Trader.

“It’s awesome,” Munroe said of the candlelight shopping experience.

 “It feels Christmas-y. We’ve been shopping at all the stores,” Allen said.

“We added two micro buses this year,” said Wilson, as he stood for a photo with the young adult customers, and Mercier looked on from behind the counter. The shuttle buses for shoppers were Trisha Hampton’s idea, he said, and Hampton is on his candlelight shopping committee.

Shop owner Trish Hampton and customer Misty Hart. NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo

Across Putnam Pike, at the merchandise and customer-packed Trish Hampton Pet Boutique, Misty Hart of Griswold, Conn. was experiencing her third year Christmas shopping by candlelight in Chepachet.

“You dress warm in appropriate clothing and you can do anything,” she said, smiling through the damp, cold night as she purchased an item for her dog.

“I love this event… such a community event,” said Hampton from behind the shop counter. “It warms my heart to see families, regular customers, and new people. it’s awesome.”

Her idea to have the shuttle for shoppers came from the other hat she wears, which is bus driver with Hopkins Transportation. 

Hampton dashed out of her shop to greet shuttle driver Kerri Barbery as a busload of shoppers smiled for a group photo. 

Holiday photo opportunities, popcorn and other refreshments are just some of the treats, in addition to an array of gift options, offered by the shops along the candlelight shopping trail. Small businesses participating in the annual event include The Hen House, Twice Blessed Thrift Shop, Village Art Cooperative, The Vintage Connection, Holidaze Stained Glass – My Free Spirit, The Old Post Office Antiques, Tavern On Main, Whisky Pearl, Who Cut the Cheese Cake and Wicked Treasures.

The Glocester Manton Library, Chepachet Union Church, Rhode Island Soapworks on Dorr Drive and The Creative Room on Money Hill Road are also part of the candlelight event.

On Putnam Pike, outside Brown & Hopkins Country Store, famous for continuous operation since 1809, a crowd of several dozen shoppers entered or exited the decorated shop. 

Rachel Gorgoza with Cheryl Lucchetti; Stella Lucchetti, age seven; and one year old Boston. NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo

“I love it. It’s whimsical,” said shopper Rachel Gorgoza of the candlelight venture. She had her two bundled-up youngsters with her, Stella Lucchetti, age seven, and Boston Lucchetti, age one. 

 “It’s a tradition,” said Gorgoza’s mother-in-law, Cheryl Lucchetti, noting that the family has Christmas shopped by candlelight in the village since her older grandchild was just a baby. 

To learn more about participating companies and organizations, see hours or register for special events, visit the event website or call Charlie Wilson at (401) 568-8800.

Shop owner Trish Hampton with shuttle driver Kerri Barbery. NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo
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