Biz Beat

Holiday shopping season kicks off with memories, parties, champagne

Climbing the stairs to the second floor on my assignment this week, I felt a wave of nostalgia. I also heard my mother – though at the time she was 15 miles away – in my ear: “Don’t break anything!”

For many of us of a certain age, a trip to the upstairs Christmas gallery at Keller’s in McHenry Village – and the admonishments from our moms to be careful – was an annual holiday tradition. So I was delighted to learn that Emma and Sarah Grover, who own Suite 52 Living by Portico, decided to resurrect the tradition. The Grovers moved their business into the former site of Keller’s earlier this year.

“We had a lot of people who told us they used to come in when they were little kids,” Emma Grover said. “We thought that was enough of a sign that we should do it.”

I got a sneak peek of the gallery, which will open this weekend. Suite 52 is among a number of local retailers planning open houses and special events this weekend to kick off the holiday season.

The upstairs of the store is filled with Christmas trees and decorations of every style, from classic to Western to a mod section full of pastel ornaments. One smaller tree sits at the top of the stairs, the first thing shoppers see when they walk in. And that tree will bring back more happy memories for those of us of a certain age.

Irv Keller also had a tradition of offering each child who visited a free Christmas ornament. The Grovers decided to bring that back, as well. And they are calling it “Irv’s Tree.”

“Kids can pick out an ornament and take it with them,” Sarah Grover said. “It’s just a way to remember a little of the magic of the place.”

Santa arrives and the tree is lit at Modesto’s Vintage Faire Mall on Friday night, followed by the annual breakfast with Santa on Saturday. More information is available on the mall’s website.

In Turlock, several of the stores in the Main Street area downtown are taking part in “Shop the Blocks” on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The event includes a limo bus to take shoppers from store to store and champagne to sip on while shopping. You can find more information at They pretty much had me at “champagne.”

Downtown Mariposa is also getting into the holiday spirit with open houses planned all weekend by gift shop Chocolate Soup, Mariposa Company Store and Miriam & Co. You can find all of those shops on Highway 140 in downtown Mariposa.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat: Opes Advisors, a mortgage and wealth management company that serves California, Oregon and Washington, has opened a new branch in Modesto.

“Modesto’s motto inscribed on its welcoming arches – ‘City of Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health’ – mirrors Opes Advisors’ vision,” company CEO, co-founder and president Susan McHan said in a news release. “We’ll help our Modesto clients make effective financial decisions to support their current lifestyle and prepare for a satisfying retirement, including addressing the new challenge of longevity.”

The new branch is at 1001 Sylvan Ave., Building B, Modesto.