Orange and red balloons bobbed in the brisk wind along Main Street as people took advantage of fall-like weather in downtown Lee’s Summit last week.
On Sept. 11 and 12, the city hosted its annual Fall Open House. Eighteen local store owners opened their doors — with social-distancing and safety protocols in place.
Julie Cook, events and promotions director for downtown Lee’s Summit, said for more than 20 years, the event has showcased fall decor, cool-weather clothing and fine cuisine.
Cook said she hoped the open house would be a fun reprieve for families hoping to spend time outside, and safely enjoy the shops and eateries.
“There’s plenty of local businesses downtown to grab takeout or curbside pick-up and then picnic at Howard Station Park or City Hall Plaza,” Cook said. “I think right now it is more important than ever to support locally owned businesses.
“When times are tough, it’s helpful to see our dollars change hands within the community.”
One of the local shops, KD’s Books, has been a part of downtown for 27 years. Owner Cheryl Collier said she’s been a lifelong book lover.
“The open houses are always an opportunity to meet new customers, and I think that’s the importance of having a small shop,” Collier said as she straightened her purple-rimmed eyeglasses. “It’s that connection you have to a customer.”
Amid the pandemic, Collier said she was encouraged that so many people were coming out and also following safety guidelines.
“It’s nice because people enjoy getting out in nice weather and doing something that feels normal. This event provides a sense of normalcy,” Collier said.
“We appreciate so much that people are wearing masks and being careful, and we try to do our best to be careful as well,” she said, gesturing to the red social-distancing stickers around her store.
A trio of women, Pat Howard and her daughters, were also enjoying the vibe in Downtown Lee’s Summit as they sat on a bench near The Living Stone, which was showcasing new fall trends.
“We love our downtown. Living Stone is our favorite shop as it’s just a really friendly and fun place to be,” Howard said. “The shops are mostly locally owned (by) residents of Lee’s Summit. We have been in the area for 20 years, so you feel a sense of community out here as you see people you also see at church or in the grocery store.”
Carlo Mancini and his wife also said they were enjoying the atmosphere on Saturday morning.
“It’s a cute, quaint area,” said Mancini as he sipped a spiced chai tea from Whistle Stop Coffee & Mercantile.
“The shops, the restaurants, the people, the service and the weather are all appealing. And it’s a good way to get out, as Downtown Lee’s Summit is really awesome.”