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City Talk: Small businesses look to lure downtown shoppers

Just like that, the holidays are upon us.

As in 2016, locally owned small businesses enter the holiday shopping season with a week or more of lost revenue because of a hurricane evacuation.

The area economy has been relatively robust over the past year, buoyed by steady population growth and strong hiring in a variety of sectors, but many small businesses simply haven’t budgeted for the loss of a week of sales.

Some area retailers are actively promoting Small Business Saturday, an attempt to grab the attention of holiday shoppers and other consumers on the day after Black Friday.

We are also on the verge of the usual series of events that showcase small businesses in the downtown area.

For example, the Downtown Design District along Whitaker Street will host its annual Holiday Walk on Nov. 30 from 5 to 8 p.m. The traditional event presents a wonderful chance to see the eclectic mix of retailers in the stretch from Jones Street to Gaston Street.

The City Market Holiday Open House is scheduled for Dec. 1 from 6 to 9 p.m., and the 16th annual Wright Square Merchants’ Holiday Open House will be Dec. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Obviously, shoppers don’t have to wait until those events to check out the downtown shopping scene. There has been a great deal of consternation in recent years about new chains moving into the Historic District, but downtown is still dotted with locally owned, one-of-a-kind businesses.

Again this year, the city of Savannah will be offering three hours of free garage parking on every Thursday and Friday from Thanksgiving Day through Dec. 22.

Even with the extra holiday shoppers, parking can often be easier in December than in other months since the Savannah College of Art and Design is not in session.

I’m sure I’ll see many of you out and about in the coming weeks.

Savannah’s restaurant scene expands rapidly

The influential online publication Eater recently selected The Grey as 2017’s “Restaurant of the Year.”

“At a time when Southern cuisine has soaked up the limelight for at least the last 15 years,” writes Eater’s Bill Addison, “[The Grey] synthesizes much of what’s relevant about this moment in American dining: an amalgamation of global and regional flavors; a big-city chef making a seismic impact in a smaller town; and an acute awareness of, and reckoning with, complex racial, economic, and cultural histories.”

The recognition obviously represents a notable step for The Grey and Chef Mashama Bailey, but the latest praise from Eater also comes at an important time for Savannah’s expanding restaurant scene.

As regular readers know, I check out many new restaurants, but even I have had trouble keeping up with the pace new openings. I devoted columns to Bull Street Taco at 1608 Bull St. and Little Duck Diner at 150 Saint Julian St., but there is a growing list of spots I haven’t yet written about.

Prohibition opened last month at 125 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., just down the street from The Grey. The new bar and restaurant is the sister establishment of Prohibition in Charleston.

I’ve enjoyed one meal at the 1540 Room at the newly renovated DeSoto Hotel on Liberty Street, but I want to make another visit or two before writing about it. Ditto for The Diplomat Luncheonette at 314 Drayton St.

Good Times Jazz Bar and Restaurant has been a huge hit since opening a few weeks ago at 107 W. Broughton St. The second floor is home to a full service restaurant with a menu selected by Chef Joe Randall. A limited menu is offered in the street level jazz club that so far has booked stellar local and touring talent.

East End Provisions at 420 E. Broughton St. also opened this month. The new spot is the latest from the Gaslight Group, which owns B. Matthew’s Eatery, The 5 Spot, Blowin’ Smoke and Abe’s on Lincoln.

As I write this, Fox &Fig Café is poised to open at 321 Habersham St. on Troup Square. The vegan restaurant is part of the local group that includes Foxy Loxy Print Gallery and Café, The Coffee Fox and Henny Penny Art Space &Café.

And Husk will be opening this winter at 12 W. Oglethorpe Ave. Since opening the original Husk in Charleston, Sean Brock has established himself as one of the most influential chefs in America, and Husk’s presence in Savannah will attract even more national and international attention to the local food scene and to the traditional foods of the Lowcountry.

Many of us are excited to see what Brock and Chef de Cuisine Tyler Williams bring to their Savannah menu.

I hope to write about all of these restaurants in upcoming columns, but I can’t check out all those places at once, regrettably.

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

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