PRINCETON — Tom Osborne remembers what it was like to walk through a winter wonderland in downtown Princeton.
Though not a Princeton native, Osborne recalls visiting Mercer Street as a child with his family, and when he thinks about it, he can still envision the merry holiday scenes merchants once created inside their store displays for shoppers who rushed by with their parcels, presents and families in tow.
“I can remember when I was a little kid, I am from Ohio, but I can remember visiting my relatives here and we would walk down Mercer Street,” Osborne said. “I can still remember Mercer Street being packed full of elbow to elbow people walking down there and every shops window was decorated for Christmas and I will never forget that feeling.
I remember the Christmas music playing outside and the Salvation Army had a band out there playing, you could buy fresh roasted peanuts, I remember that smell.”
Later in life, Osborne moved to Princeton, where he met his wife, Tonya, who happened to be the daughter of Ronnie Stump, a longtime partner in Lynch’s Clothing Company.
Ronnie Stub was a business owner and member of the downtown merchants association for over 30 years. Building his career at Lynch Clothing Company, he knew the importance of small businesses in our community.
He loved Christmas and took great pride in creating fantastic window displays at Lynch’s each Christmas season.
In keeping with the spirit of the importance of downtown Princeton, his family has created a Downtown Christmas Window Decorating Contest, so get those storefronts decorated.
In addition to partnering in one of Mercer Street’s legendary businesses, Stump was also one of the merchants who always believed in decorating his store as merrily and nicely as possible for every Christmas season, and he went every extra mile possible to make sure his customers had every opportunity to purchase their gifts, no matter how difficult that made it to fit his own family time into the schedule.
Osborne recalled hearing his mother-in-law, Judy, share stories about how she and the rest of the Stump family would work through Christmas Eve at Lynch’s, and while Ronnie Stump was tending to customers as efficiently as possible, the family would wrap gifts for patrons, and deliver the presents, for no extra fee.
“People would buy men’s clothing there and they would wrap the presents for people free of charge and take it to their house and that is something you just do not see any more. I will never forget that story that they would tell about staying at the store late on Christmas Eve to get the presents wrapped up for people,” Osborne said. “We can get back to a little bit of that.”
In a bid to revive some of that special Christmas spirit that once floated so freely downtown, Osborne and his family have signed on to help coordinate the Ronnie Stump Memory Window Contest held each year in downtown Princeton.
“I was just wanting to bring back that memory that I have so we started doing the window contest to try to get people interested and decorating their windows and some Christmas spirit,” Osborne said.
The Osborne family hold the friendly window decorating- competition each year in honor of Stump as a way to honor him and to say thank you to the businesses who still put their hearts into their business and the season by decorating their window displays.
Osborne’s wife, Tonya and his children, Wylie and Abbey, serve as the judges for the contest. The family usually asks that storefront owners have their windows decorated by the Christmas parade so that visitors can enjoy the view aside from the parade. This year, the windows should be ready for Small Business Saturday and will be awarded on Dec. 5.
“We wanted to make sure everyone gets involved this year, especially because of COVID, everyone is trying to drown it out and this is a good way to cheer people up and a good way for businesses to cheer people up,” Osborne said.
“They might not think about it, but even driving by a decorated window puts a smile on your face.”
Storefronts between Caperton Avenue and Main Street are included this year. First, second and third place prizes will be awarded with $100 for the first prize winner. The windows should be ready for Small Business Saturday and will be awarded on Saturday, December 5th.
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com