‘TIS THE SEASON Shoppers Go Small

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November 27, 2018
Crowds Turn Out Big For Small Business Saturday
By SHELBY MERTENS
Daily News-Record     11/26/18
 
HARRISONBURG — The heavy rain didn’t stop shoppers from supporting local retailers on Small Business Saturday.
Following Black Friday — considered the biggest shopping day of the year when people around the country flock to major retailers to score holiday deals after filling their bellies with Thanksgiving dinner — Small Business Saturday was created in 2010. The day is a Christmas shopping alternative to support local stores, who compete against the big-box stores and online retailers.
The event is sponsored by American Express, who found in a consumer survey with the National Federation of Independent Business that 95 million shoppers participated in Small Business Saturday in 2015, investing $16 billion into small businesses across the country.
Valley business owners were pleased with the turnout on Saturday.
“I’ve been surprised by the number of people I’ve had because of the weather,” said Mike Logan, owner of The Cottage in Dayton.
Located at 223 Main St., The Cottage sells antiques, vintage items, accessories and gifts. Sale items were 60 percent off and Logan had refreshments out for customers, along with forms to enter a raffle.
Logan said having the designated day to recognize small businesses has impacted his sales.
“It definitely helps. It’s one of our busiest weekends, that combined with Black Friday,” he said. “It gets bigger and bigger each year. It seems like more and more people are aware of Small Business Saturday.”
Bluetique, a women’s boutique at 187 N. Main St. in downtown Harrisonburg that sells clothing, shoes and accessories, offered several deals for Small Business Saturday. Customers who entered the store could pick a candy cane that came with a coupon that was 15 to 30 percent off. On top of that, jewelry was buy two get one free and beauty products were 30 percent off.
Candice Shelton, the owner of Bluetique, said shoppers tend to wait until Saturday to shop at the small businesses as opposed to Black Friday.
“I think more people come out and shop in the downtown area for local businesses on
Small Business Saturday whereas on Black Friday, it’s more about the department stores and going to the mall.”
Shelton said business had been pretty good on Saturday and expected sales to exceed Black Friday.
“People want to go out and help support small businesses,” she said.
Amy Cerelli, owner of Blue Ridge Dog, a pet supply store 115 W. Water St. in Harrisonburg, also said her store remained busy despite the weather. Cerelli gave away “Shop Small” tote bags made by American Express to the first 10 customers.
“We’ve had people come in specifically for Small Business Saturday,” Cerelli said. “We’ve noticed each year it’s gotten better for us. I think in our community, locally owned and small businesses, people seem to want to support, especially today.”
Blue Ridge Dog faces competition from major pet store chains such as Petsmart and Petco, but Cerelli said her business has a more personable touch.
“We find people trust us to get products that are safe for their pet so we’re really careful what we put in our store. We make sure the toy’s not toxic, we make sure all of our treats are ‘made in USA’ and most of our stuff has been used on our own dogs or we’ve used ourselves or we’ve heard feedback from customers, but we do a ton of research before we even bring anything in,” she said. “We don’t carry any rawhide. We’re really careful about where we get our chews. So, I think that’s a draw, that they don’t have to think twice about giving them something from our store.”
Eva Heatwole, owner of The Cheese Place inside the Dayton Market off Va. 42, said foot traffic at her shop had been “brisk” as of late morning.
“We started out slow but it’s really picked up now,” Heatwole said. “I don’t think the rain has affected it any.”
The Cheese Place, in business for 30 years, sells bulk food and an assortment of locally-made cheeses, jams, relishes, spices and candy.
Heatwole said Small Business Saturday has helped create a base of loyal customers. She said her employees create a more personalized shopping experience, such as remembering customers’ names and their orders, that you can’t find at major grocery store chains.
“We have some people who are very loyal to our store here in the market and they are concerned about how our businesses is doing, so it’s always encouraging to have them come in and say, ‘How’s it going? We want you to succeed,’” she said. “I think that’s what Small Business Saturday is all about.”
Cindy Lupinetti, of arrington, Del., was shopping at the Dayton Market on Saturday, a tradition she began when she and her husband bought a vacation home in Mathias, W.Va.
“We’ve been coming here for years. They have a lot of stuff in here, just different things that you can’t find anywhere else,” Lupinetti said.
She purchased a small decorative flag from a store in the market called Crafty Hands.
“We definitely enjoy supporting small businesses. I feel bad that I’m not at home doing it, that’s why we support it here,” she said. “All these little people that make all this, yes, they need to be supported bigger than the big-box stores.”
Jeff Heatwole, who owns Tic Tac Toys in the Dayton Market, said Small Business Saturday helps keep shoppers aware of the need to support local retailers. Tic Tac Toys specializes in unique toys with a side of nostalgia.
“A lot of the toys that we try to stock aren’t necessarily in Walmart or Target. Yes, we do have some that are, but we try to have more unique items, some more hands-on and more classic toys that you won’t find in other places,” he said. “In here, they get the chance to find something that maybe the parents remember playing with as a child but you don’t see around anymore.”
Although Heatwole said online shopping poses a challenge, he said shoppers still want to ensure they are spending their money on quality toys.
“Online is definitely a challenge as people get more things there but here, most people still like the ability to pick the item up and see what the quality is in their hands, or maybe play with it in the store while they’re here,” Heatwole said. “It’s something you definitely can’t do online.”
Michael Welshonce was shopping in Tic Tac Toys with his wife and son on Saturday. The family lives in King William but stops at the Dayton Market on the way home from visiting family in West Virginia over Thanksgiving.
“[We’re] just getting ideas for the little one, what he wants Santa to bring him,” Welshonce said. “I think they have a wide selection here. It’s got a little bit of everything.”
Welshonce said it’s important to support “the small town people.” “They need support,” he added.