It wasn't just sleigh bells you heard ringing in the days before Christmas. It was also cash registers.
Downtown merchants say they are quite pleased with their 2010 holiday season and hope it means there are good things to come in 2011.
"The numbers aren't official, but it was probably our strongest Christmas in a couple of years," said Greg Gluck, owner of Alberty Drugs. "It was certainly better than last year and probably better than the year before, which is probably a good sign for everyone."
Besides filling prescriptions, Alberty sells gift items and greeting cards.
Owners of The Enchanted Florist, Charles Men's Shop, Glass Roots, Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, Valle Jewelers and 3D Wine and Spirits all say sales were up a bit this year, though nobody is saying "Wow, I can't believe how great it was!"
But any improvement over the past few years is a welcome sign that at last some people have money to spend and they're spending it.
"The top shelf wines sold and the wines on the bottom shelf sold, but the wines in the middle didn't sell as much," said 3D's owner, Dave Buchholtz. "The people who have the money are spending it, and the people who don't, aren't."
At Charles Men's Shop, owner Dave Howe agrees to a point. He said 2010 was a good improvement over 2009's Christmas season, but he said he heard from a lot of customers who were looking for quality from a local shop. He said people seem tired of overpriced, overhyped "buy one get six free" sales.
"People are less apt to drive all over the countryside," Howe said. "They gave us a shot first to see if we can help."
Next door, at The Enchanted Florist, Kathy Saile, said Christmas sales were up and met her expectations for the season.
"We didn't have any product left over and we were able to make all of our deliveries," Saile said.
At Adam Miller, people came in looking for bikes, hobby items, puzzles and unique toys you just can't get in the chain stores, said John Roche.
"The last two weeks we were swamped," Roche said. "It was way better than what I expected."
The strong sales locally matches reports of strong holiday sales nationally. The New York Times reports:
After a 6-percent free fall in 2008 and a 4-percent uptick last year, retail spending rose 5.5 percent in the 50 days before Christmas, exceeding even the more optimistic forecasts, according to MasterCard advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks retail spending.
The rise was seen in just about every retail category. Apparel led the way, with an increase of 11.2 percent. Jewelry was up 8.4 percent, and luxury goods like handbags and expensive department-store clothes increased 6.7 percent.
There was even a slight increase in purchases of home furniture, which had four consecutive years of declining sales. The figures include in-store and online sales.
The day before Christmas, Valle's Jewelers was packed with customers, and co-owner Mary Valle said the store was busy throughout the holiday season.
The store ran several promotions and advertised heavily for Christmas shopping, Valle said, and it seemed to pay off.
"We saw many new people in the store," Valle said. "People wanted to shop in the county and they verbalized it."
Advertising also paid off for Jeremy Almeter, owner of Glass Roots. For the first time in the five-year history of his business, he ran advertising -- exclusively in The Batavian -- promoting his handmade glass Christmas ornaments.
"For the first time, we sold out of ornaments," Almeter said. "We saw at least 20 faces in the store we'd never seen before."
Top: Mary Valle and Kamilla Kabel. Kabel, the former owner of House of K, is helping out at Valle's.Top inset, Dave Howe; bottom, Dave Buchholtz.
WBTA's Geoff Redick contributed to this story.