Happy January! Time to start planning for … Christmas

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

It's just a few days into 2013, and already Christmas is being discussed.

The three-story Christmas tree that stood in what was once the Euro-themed Peoples Gas Holiday Market has been packed up in a moving van, and the remaining planks that used to be Santa's House were torn down last week.

But don't fret, Yuletide faithful!

The event's sponsor and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership say the quaint village scene was successful and that it will be back next fall, and for years after that.

“It was a grand celebration,” says Ida D'Errico, a spokeswoman for the Downtown Partnership. “It created a ... new, exciting, unique and dynamic attraction that can only be found in Downtown.”

The event's sponsor, Peoples Natural Gas, has been talking with the 16 vendors that participated in the market, which ran from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23. D'Errico says the Downtown Partnership began a study in recent days to see what the public thought of the market and to determine what improvements can be made.

Inspired by the original 16th-century Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, and the popular Christkindlmarket in Chicago, the holiday market was envisioned as a strategy to lure more shoppers to the Downtown area with the flavors and textures of Old World Europe.

Visitors donated more than $30,00, along with 2,300 pounds of canned goods and nonperishable foods, during the market to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, D'Errico says.

Drew Hine vowed to be back with his assortment of handcrafted glassware next year.

He brought scores of glass Christmas ornaments, decorations, even stocking-stuffer gifts, to Market Square from his Vessel Glass Studio in the South Side. All of them sold well, he says, in some cases, better than those he's offered at festivals elsewhere.

Hine's presence also drew attention to glass-blowing classes he offers.

“It was probably one of the best weeks we've ever had sales-wise,” Hine says. “We were only out there for four days ... but it gave us strong exposure. People were very interested in what we had.”

Downtown business wheeler-dealer types weren't the only ones to sample Austrian-made strudels, cuddle hand-woven German winter wear and gaze at handcrafted Christmas tree ornaments during the nearly month-long holiday market. Vendors reported having sold items to customers with Virginia and Ohio return addresses on their debit and credit cards.

Peoples Gas spokesman Barry Kukovich says, while the holiday market put a brighter gleam on Market Square's luster, it gave a new profile to other Downtown businesses. Macy's and other retailers several blocks from Market Square reported traffic from the holiday market.

David Wagman took the affinity for colored gem stones he grew up with in the Arizona desert and turned it into a jewelry business that he and his sister now run in Newark, Del. The business, Wagman Designs, has operated for 10 years, and has become a fixture at festivals and arts and jewelry shows on the East Coast.

Going to Pittsburgh's Holiday Market represented the first time he's shown his wares in an outdoor winter show.

“I didn't know what to expect,” says Wagman, who specializes in grading and appraising gems. “People would look, and because they worked (Downtown), they came back to buy gifts. They were, overall, pretty positive.”

Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cramirez@tribweb.com or 412-380-5682.

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