The annual holiday lights on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg may not shine as bright this year due to a shortage of donations from local businesses and corporate chain stores alike, a lights organizer says.
In anticipation of the winter holiday season, Charlie Bournis, owner of Office 11211 (223 Bedford Ave.), began soliciting donations from local businesses for the lights that brighten up the main retail drag in Williamsburg’s northside from Metropolitan Avenue to N 12th Street. But small businesses in the area have taken a devastating hit due to the pandemic, making donations unfeasible this year, Bournis says.
“I can’t just let it go,” Bournis said. “I saw what they did over on Manhattan Avenue, and I said ‘OK.’ And we’ve got one response so far with a $300 donation.” Another local donor outside of the GoFundMe campaign surprised Bournis with a $5,000 donation on Monday morning, making a more economical tinsel light display attainable, he says.
As the owner of a packing and shipping store which opened on Bedford Avenue in 2003, Bournis has worked with Evergreen Exchange, a local merchant association, to help campaign for donations to fund the lights in recent years. But the avenue’s business landscape has rapidly shifted, he says:
“Our problem here is that the big boxes have moved in. You can’t get anything from the big boxes. I walked into Amazon, which is Whole Foods, and they gave me the runaround. I walked into T-mobile, and the same thing. So I went to Apple, and they wouldn’t even let me in through the front door.“
At a bare minimum, Bournis says that the cheaper tinsel-style lights will be installed this year on Bedford Avenue, but he’s hoping to raise more funds to bring the festive lights up to their full spirit-lifting potential. “If we hit 10k, I hope we can get the LED lights if they’re not sold out yet,” he said. “If not, we’ll get a couple more strands going up and down the block.”