Sheila Edwards-May, the owner of Tokenz in Half Moon Bay, examined a bowl of bundled sage at her store. While she sells minerals, incense, candles, jewelry and a vast assortment of goods at her store, it’s the bundled packages of green herbs that are selling well this holiday season.

“We have to restock this every day,” she said.

Edwards-May, like other small business owners on Main Street, believed many customers feel an urge to shop and support local businesses during the pandemic.

“They want to support their locally owned businesses,” she said. “They don’t want them to go away.”

On Dec. 9, five Bay Area counties opted to enter California’s shelter-in-place order. San Mateo County did not opt in early, which meant some local retailers saw a bump from people traveling in to shop. San Mateo County joined the most restrictive tier last week, but shopping continues — albeit with new restrictions.

As Christmas approaches, some Coastside business owners have noted a trend in customers making a point to do their holiday shopping at locally operated, small stores.

At The Paper Crane, stationery and boxed notecards are among the more popular items lately, according to Amber Stow, daughter-in-law of store owner Margaret Stow. The store’s two antique Chandler & Price Pilot presses are getting a lot of use making customized cards. Stow believes customers may not be traveling as much to see loved ones, thus sending a customized gift shows some thoughtfulness and creativity.

“I’ve had people make a point of telling me they’re shopping locally, which we’re very grateful for,” Stow said.

Last month, the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau expanded the annual Night of Lights event to include four Friday evenings preceding Christmas. Promoted events included a “Shop Small Weekend” on Nov. 27, and a Christmas tree and menorah lighting at Mac Dutra Park. Stores on Main Street kept their doors open until 8 p.m., and some are participating in a month-long window decoration contest.

“This year, easily half the customers I’ve spoken to have said they’re doing 100 percent of their holiday shopping locally,” said Colleen Henney, secretary of the Half Moon Bay Downtown Association. “It’s been really amazing, and even with the COVID shutdown rumors and confusion, we’ve stayed afloat. It is an incredible local showing of support for the business community, and we’re so grateful.”

Rachel Ortolan, the owner of the home furnishing store Abode, had to close her store from March 15 until June 1. When she reopened, she had to “wear many hats” while taking orders online, offering curbside pickup and local deliveries. Since then, Abode has done better month to month compared to the same time last year. Ortolan noted that people may feel a need to shop small because it feels like they’re giving an investment back into the community.

“We’re hearing that every day, and it’s translated to local dollars,” Ortolan said. “And we’re so grateful for that.” r

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