There are times to sip and there are times to shop.

On Nov. 18 in Edenton, there was time for both.

Destination Downtown Edenton held a resurgent Sip & Shop event after a darkened 2020, which was thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dedicated to the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, Sip & Shop returned in 2021 to bring a wave of evening festivities to the Broad Street commercial corridor.

From Byrum’s Hardware to Surf, Wind and Fire and everything in between, shoppers had a plethora of options throughout downtown Edenton to choose from on Thursday evening for holiday gift shopping.

Christmas decorations welcomed them, freshly installed and adorning the streetscapes of downtown. Wreaths hung high, lights casting a warm glow up and down sidewalks as neighbors greeted each other in passing.

Dogs trotted ahead of their owners, children buzzed about seeing the bright and colorful storefront displays and old friends caught up amidst the shopping extravaganza, with plenty of bags in hand.

Mild weather saluted the event, with a few calm breezes sweeping up from Edenton Bay to keep temperatures above average and pleasant for a November evening.

Between 5-8 p.m., the Sip & Shop hubbub meandered across Broad Street, ushering in the peak of the shopping season.

Local business owners were enthusiastic about the return of the event, with some being newly minted members of the party.

“This is my first time [participating],” says Annette Ringeisen of Cloth and Twine. “It’s a great idea, something like this should be once a month or every Friday, to bring in more people. Especially for people who can’t make it out because of early shopping hours.”

At Edenton Bay Trading Company, Debbie and Malcolm King are both ready to see the holiday season return in a bolder fashion than before.

“It’s great to see Sip & Shop kicking off the holiday season,” the Kings said. “We’re glad to see the holiday season back and better than ever after a crazy year last year.”

This is the first Sip & Shop for DDE Executive Director Morgan Potts, who is excited for the levels of participation she saw from downtown businesses.

“I am beyond pleased with the number of businesses who are participating this year — 21 retailers,” Potts said, who took over as Executive Director in October. “COVID-19 has altered the usual holiday plans for the past year and I know citizens are looking forward to getting back to normal and celebrating the holidays — which includes gift giving.”

At North No. 4, Alexandria Evans is looking forward to spending her business anniversary with the event. A significant milestone.

“I’m excited to celebrate my one year anniversary with Sip & Shop this week,” Evans said. “I’m excited that it’s back.”

Outside Broad Street Bazaar, Maria Ore took on a Santa beard and waltzed to Michael Bublé’s serenades as shoppers came and went. Some sipped on the hot apple cider just outside the shop, others were laser-focused on their gift hunting.

Just inside the Bazaar, Amy O’Hara greeted all those who entered with a warm smile and the offering of wine and cupcakes.

“I’ve enjoyed participating and meeting people, it’s great to spend time sipping and shopping with friends,” said O’Hara, alongside Sandy Moats.

Post-event, Potts hailed the return of Sip & Shop as a “success.”

“Remember, shop small, shop local!” Potts said.

Thadd White is Group Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.