Hyde Park businesses glad construction not keeping Christmas shoppers away

Streets packed for tree lighting festival

TAMPA -
A massive makeover continues in Tampa's historic Hyde Park neighborhood.  With a lot of barricades putting some parking off limits, Some businesses have feared it might be tough to bring holiday shoppers to the area.
But now, there's reason to have hope. 
 
Bright orange barricades have kind of become an eyesore and a fixture in Hyde Park the last several months with construction.  That was leading to a lot of concerns among business owners, but those concerns now going away because thousands of people packed the area Saturday to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season.
 
The sights and sounds of the holidays..are filling the air in Hyde Park Village.
 
"It's so much fun.  Yeah.  It's really fun to look at all the stores and stuff and shop around," said Lindsay Garland and Ava Reichle.
 
That's music to the ears for Hyde Park's small businesses.  Months of ongoing construction, barricades around every corner, and limited parking, had them worried this Christmas might not be so merry...
 
"That was a little bit of a concern.  But I know the management team has worked so hard to get the village looking as pretty as possible, and they came through," said Trish Santana, office manager for Toffee to Go.
 
Toffee to Go is celebrating its second holiday shopping season at Hyde Park.  The store's manager says business is booming.  Seeing the crowds come out to enjoy the annual tree lighting festival is a promising sign for the important weeks ahead.
 
"Absolutely.  I think it's going to be a huge hit this holiday season," Santana said.
 
Locals say the new restaurants and stores are a big enough draw to maneuver around the barricades, and they're excited to see what the finished product will be.
 
"Before this was here, it was like, wow, we've got to go to downtown St. Pete because they're doing so well.  But with this coming to fruition, it's actually making Tampa a contender," said Chase Hebelel.
 
Shop owners are now hoping the trend continues with more packed streets for Small Business Saturday next weekend, and lasting all the way through Christmas.
 
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