Federal Hill tree lighting launches crucial holiday season for small businesses

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — During Saturday’s “Christmas on the Hill” tree lighting on Federal Hill, it felt like the holidays — but for the first time, with masks and social distancing.

“Things are a little bit different from years past,” said Jessica Costantino, whose family runs Venda Ravioli. “But everyone’s still having fun, there’s performers, there’s Santa, there’s a tree lighting, and the joy of Christmas is really present.”

And joy is what local shops and restaurants say they could really use right now.

“This year overall has probably been the most challenging we’ve dealt with in decades,” said Rick Simone of the Federal Hill Commerce Association. “And we’re trying to lift people’s spirits to come up and support those small businesses — whether it’s online or in person.”

Mayor Jorge Elorza reinforcing that message this small business Saturday.

“The city’s going do everything that we can to help them get to the other side of this, and we’re going to encourage as many people as possible to support local businesses,” said the mayor, a Democrat. “And I know how easy it is to go on Amazon or go on your app. But we’re asking everyone, please do everything you can to support local businesses.”

Visitors say it’s not just the Santa sighting, but shopping and eating local that’s bringing their families out tonight.

“With the pandemic, they’re hurting more than ever,” said Kristine Mulligan of Central Falls. “So every dollar counts. We’re happy to help any way we can.”

That help is especially crucial right now as the state prepares to head into the two-week pause.

“We have a concern that the pause could hurt,” Simone said. “But we’re looking for the ways to make it so that it’s effective and helpful during that time frame while keeping everybody safe.”

Simone adds that this week he plans to announce a new effort to allow people to safely support small businesses.

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island