DENHAM SPRINGS — Dozens of businesses in the city’s Antique Village opened their doors Nov. 29 and welcomed guests for the 18th Annual Main Street Holiday Chef’s Evening and Wine Tasting Event, yet another activity that is helping to usher in the Christmas season.
The event, sponsored by the Denham Springs Main Street Commission, proved once again to be popular. Patricia Genre, chairwoman of Denham Springs Main Street, said only 300 tickets were offered and all were sold before the event.
“This is always a very special night in downtown Denham Springs. Most of the shops are open and guests will be treated to some great food and wine as they visit all the stores. This is a nice way to help get the Christmas shopping season off to a good start,” Genre said.
She said the purpose of the chef’s evening are twofold: to give shop owners the opportunity to increase their business and meet new customers; and to raise funds for the Antique Village. Patrons were charged $25 to visit the shops and partake of the food and wine. Those funds will be used for improvements and promotional events in the Antique Village.
Donna Jennings, director of Main Street Denham Springs, pointed out that the Antique District is now recognized as a National Historic District and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. “This distinction makes our Antique Village very special and its uniqueness makes it a very attractive place to visit. Tonight is an especially great time to be visiting the Village,” she said.
Genre and Lyn Deville, who helped chair the event, have been working on the Chef’s Evening for several weeks. Genre said the merchants and chefs had been eagerly awaiting the event. “This is always a fun thing, and it puts the spotlight on the unique shops and businesses that we have in downtown Denham Springs," Genre said." We are blessed to have the cooperation of the store owners and the great cooks who bring so much good food and wine to the Antique Village. We are happy to welcome our many visitors to downtown Denham Springs.”
Among the many articles on sale at the various business establishments were antiques, collectibles, art, books, stained glass, furniture, clothing, gifts, jewelry, accessories and many other items. In addition to the food offerings in the businesses, several restaurants were also open for the evening.
Adding Christmas cheer to the event were the children’s and adult choirs from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and music by Lanford 10, a local music group.
Liz Bentivegna, proprietor of the Rusty Rooster Antique Shop, said the event “gives us an opportunity to meet and entertain new clients. At the same time, it’s always nice to greet old friends. Tonight we start a new Christmas season in the Village, and it is always a good time. There’s a festive atmosphere in Antique Village tonight, and it lifts everyone’s spirits. This is one of the nice things that we do.”
Serving gumbo, steak with rice and gravy, and bread pudding at the Rusty Rooster were chefs from Café Pere-Dale of Denham Springs. Dale Waymond of Pere-Dale said this is the second year that his restaurant has participated in the Holiday Chef’s Evening and Wine Tasting.
“We came last year and it was a great experience," Waymond said. "After Chef’s Night, we had new customers come to our restaurant. The next day, we had people calling for reservations! We told them they didn’t need reservations for our restaurant, to just come on by and we would have room for them.”
At their specialty clothing shop, The Bee’s Knees, owners Laura Dunlop, Laurie Mobley and Jennifer Harris awaited guests along with Mary Day of the Chicken Salad Chick eatery.
“We enjoy participating in Chef’s Evening because it is a fundraiser that helps Antique Village," Dunlop said. "At the same time, it is nice to see people we know and new customers. Our visitors are busy eating but they will come back … they always do. People who have never been to Antique Village always come back, and many say they didn’t realize all we have to offer here. We have some really unique shops in the area that are well worth visiting.”
Devin Magee of Designs by Magee was experiencing his first Chef’s Evening and said that he was enjoying the night because it was the right time to start getting into the Christmas spirit. “I’ve been enjoying meeting people and getting to know the folks from Walk-On's who are serving some delicious food in my shop. This is a good event because it helps the village while getting potential customers in my business. It’s a fun night, and I am enjoying it.”