Harry Potter joins Santa on Spring Street

| 21 Nov 2017 | 02:33

BY Laurie Gordon and Erika Norton
— Witches and wizards from all over the tri-state area are coming to downtown Newton for a special Harry Potter-inspired Small Business Saturday.
On Nov. 25, the shops and restaurants on Spring Street will magically transform into those from Diagon Alley, kicking off the holiday shopping season with enchanting giveaways, sales, deals and activities.
“Ryan Stapel at Recollectales came up with the idea of changing the street to Diagon Alley and many of the other merchants thought it was a good idea,” said Nancy Woods, Executive Director of the Greater Newton Chamber of Commerce.
Organized by Spring Street Merchants Circle, a collective made up of four Newton businesses, upwards of 30 shops and stores within Newton's main business district will be participating in the event.
Stapel, an organizer of the event and owner of ReCollectables, a vintage novelty store on Spring Street, said his wife suggested turning a few stores into stores from Diagon Alley after going through some Harry Potter stock at their store. But through the power of social media, the event has received a lot of attention.
“We decided to try to do something through the Spring Street Merchants Circle and to transform our stores,” Stapel said. “And until about seven or eight days ago, it was just a small event we were going to do after the holiday parade, just to keep people on the street after the parade for Small Business Saturday. We figured it would maybe help some of the businesses on the street.
“We didn’t know it was being shared continuously all around the region, around the tri-state all the way down to South Jersey,” he continued. “We didn’t know the scope of how far it had gone. So now it’s not technically an event, it’s more of just everybody getting together and having a Harry Potter Day.”
Woods said that the Chamber, after learning of the event and how the idea was being received, decided to make the theme of its annual holiday parade “Magical Christmas” to dovetail with the Harry Potter happening.
“I know from the calls and emails that I have been getting that a lot of folks are very excited about the idea,” Woods said. “I believe several folks will be in costume.”
The parade has been a mainstay in the community for years and helps to kick off and promote holiday shopping in the area. In more recent years, Small Business Saturday has been coupled to the parade. Now there's Harry Potter as well.
Stapel’s shop, which will transform into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, will have a Sorting Hat to sort visitors into one of the four Hogwarts Houses. There will also be a Horcrux hunt which will enable visitors to be entered into a drawing to win three big prizes.
The Barrel House restaurant will transform into the Leaky Cauldron, so they will be serving Butterbeer along with Harry Potter-themed food. Between the Bread will transform into the Great Hall featuring Harry Potter-themed food and drinks, and 4Chicks will transform into Madam Puddifoot’s Cafè.
Other participating shops include Charcoal Moons boutique, which will transform into Ollivander’s Wand Shop, and Black Dog Books, which will become Flourish and Blotts bookshop.
The Scissor Joint will turn into Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion Salon and feature discounts, mini pedicures and Harry Potter nail decals.
Stapel also said that the Newton Methodist Church choir and a band will be in the street performing some songs from the Harry Potter movies along with Christmas classics.
Those who are sorted into the different Houses will receive ID cards, Stapel said, which can be used during December on designated days in Newton to receive discounts. Cosplay is definitely encouraged as well, he said, so anyone who wants to come in costume is welcome.
“It’s a good way to bring a lot of people to the area,” Stapel said, “Newton is our county seat, so it would definitely be a boon for Newton. We’re working on revitalizing — we have a lot of people moving out of our county — so it’s a good way to maybe make it annual destination if we can do that and pull this off.”
Since the event has generated a lot of interest through social media, the Town of Newton has stepped up to help with parking and shuttles, he said, and Newton Mayor Wayne Levante has been a big supporter of the event as a way to get younger people into town. Other organizations like the Rotary Club and Lakeland Bank are also interested in being involved.
Newton's Town Manager, Thomas Russo, Jr. said, “Having the Harry Potter theme adds an extra layer of excitement to our holiday parade and activities. We are anticipating visitors from throughout the region and NJ for this exciting event.”
Russo added, “The parade is a tradition in Newton, one of many that makes Newton an exceptional place to live in, work in, and visit. Small business Saturday is a great way for visitors to patronize our wonderful shops, boutiques, and restaurants. We are grateful for the leadership of the Greater Newton Chamber of Commerce and various merchants who work tirelessly to make Newton a great place to conduct business.”
Bonnie Bitondo, owner of Maxwell & Molly's Closet Pet Boutique on Spring Street said, “We employ local individuals and pay taxes to the town of Newton. We support local charities and most recently have partnered with Family Promise to feed the pets of displaced families. A vibrant downtown, like excellent schools, raises property values for the town and surrounding communities. Statistically, it is proven that more pennies on the dollar are retained in the local economy from mom and pops than from big box stores.”
Ann Marie Vitoulis, marketing director of The Newton Theatre, said the parade and Small Business Saturday are great for the town.
“We always have gift certificates and we always say 'tickets make great gifts,'” she said.
As one of Newton's newest businesses, Sol Azteka is ready for Small Business Saturday.
Of the event, owner Raul Gonzalez said, “This is a big initiative that helps both new and business already created promote services and products. I think is a wonderful idea. At Sol Azteka we have gift certificates in all denomination that can be redeemed for gifts from our gift shop or meals. We have a big variety of Mexican handcrafts, and with the holidays upon us, people can host all sorts of parties including corporate holiday parties, as well as special occasion caterings, post-Funeral’s receptions, sweet sixteen, etc.”
And there's a special for parade/Small Business Saturday day.
“On Saturday November 25th we are going to have breakfast for the people that will attend the Holiday Parade and Buffet from 12 to 9:30PM and Sunday November 26,” Gonzalez said, “On December 8th we will have a party for people with in-capacities. On December 17, there will be a Brunch with Santa from 11-5 PM and on the 19th, a Christmas Concert with the Chorus from Newton High School at 5 PM.”
“It's so exciting that Spring Street is transforming into Diagon Alley,” said Erin Louglas, chef/owner at Between the Bread which is located in the middle of the thoroughfare. “Between the Bread is going to be 'The Great Hall' and guests will be dining family style beneath the floating candles. We are also doing free coffee on black Friday - all day from eight am to four pm. On Small Biz Sat, we will be handing out coupons for special holiday season promotions.”
“It is the hope that all those who come out to enjoy the parade will remain in the town to support Small Business Saturday,” the Chamber’s Woods said. “Having the Harry Potter event in the afternoon hopefully will do this also. I love the holiday parade and love to see how excited the different 4-H clubs, cub and boy scout, brownies and girl scouts, etc. get about marching down Spring Street. Several of the groups work really hard to make beautiful floats. Santa will be arriving on the Newton Fire Truck to visit with children right after the parade ends.”
“So many new shops have opened this past year,” Russo said. “If people have not been to Newton in some time, they should take the time this weekend to enjoy the parade and activities which will officially kick off the Christmas season in Sussex County.”
The 2017 Holiday Parade begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, on Spring Street.
The Diagon Alley event will take place immediately after the parade's conclusion and will continue throughout the afternoon.
Admission to both the parade and the Harry Potter event is free.