DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A decades-old Christmas market returns to Dallas Wednesday night, defying the conventional wisdom that customers would rather buy online.

“The denominator of our shopper is connections,” says Karen Gray, one of four co-chairs of the Chi Omega Christmas Market 2018. “They still want to come and meet with their friends, they still want a place to go for a girl’s night out, they still want to go and touch and feel the products that aren’t available to a normal brick and mortar here. It is an experience not to be missed.”

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The market opens at 7:00 p.m., with a preview party that includes dinner, cocktails and valet parking. As vendors rush to get their unique wares in place, an air of expectation fills Fair Park’s Centennial building.

“This is the big one!” exhales Susan Jones of Garland, owner of Susan Jones Gifts. Jones is a first time vendor at Chi Omega and says she became emotional when she saw her name on the booth. “It is so exciting, because I feel like I’m in the big league.”

Customers buy tickets for the privilege of browsing the unique wares. And there is wait list for booths.

“It’s huge! It really is huge,” says Betty Collins, co-owner of Forget Me Not, in Highland Park. “I mean, we have been planning and plotting and buying for this since the spring.”

Collins and her partner ignored the retail nay-sayers and opened a brick and mortar store last year. Still, she says the Chi Omega market has been a boon to small businesses, offering connections to other owners, exposur, and access to that niche shopper still craving customer service.

For example, “I’m going to lunch, I need a gift for my girlfriend now,” explains Collins, whose shop offers custom embroidered items and gifts. “I don’t have time to wait to order it online. People love the personal service, they want to touch and feel.”

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And the roughly 11,000 expected shoppers can feel good about the fact that ticket sales support local charities. According to Chi Omega staffers, more than $8 million has been donated over the market’s 40-year run. This 41st year promises to add even more.

“What that represents to you and me is the health, education and welfare of our neighbors, our community,” says Gray. “This year we have promised more than $250,000 back to 10 beneficiaries, so when you come and buy a ticket, you are supporting one of those beneficiaries in an indirect way.”

Call it a bonus, because the 90,000 square feet of clothing, jewelry, candles, ornaments, decor and you name it, is just plain fun.

“Every craft show that I have done has been up in sales,” says Jones. “People are excited, they have a little extra money in their pockets. They’re buying not only gifts for friends but for themselves: which is awesome, it’s really awesome.”

Hours and ticket prices vary.  For details, click here.

The market runs through Saturday at the Centennial Building at Fair Park.

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Chi Omega Christmas Market (CBS 11)