REGIONAL – With the holiday shopping season set to kick off on Black Friday, many small, locally-owned businesses are gearing up for a somewhat lesser-known shopping event— Small Business …
REGIONAL – With the holiday shopping season set to kick off on Black Friday, many small, locally-owned businesses are gearing up for a somewhat lesser-known shopping event— Small Business Saturday, or SBS.
Here in the North Country, there are a number of businesses participating in the annual event, set this year for Nov. 30, and most are offering a variety of sale specials as well as special treats. It’s all designed to encourage North Country residents to spend at least a portion of their holiday budget at locally-owned retailers.
Some of those retailers say that many local residents already understand that message.
“I feel lucky that many of our customers, local and tourist, patronize small, family-owned businesses throughout the whole year,” said Elli Piragis, with Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely.
Ubetcha Antiques & Uniques of Tower is another local retailer who will be taking part in SBS once again. According to Vicky Meloche, who owns and operates the store with her husband Charlie Carlson, the store sells a variety of items from high-quality antiques to unique artisan pieces. They actually extend their specials to the Friday before and the Sunday after SBS. This year, Ubetcha will be taking care of the sales taxes themselves, which means anything you purchase will be tax-free. They will also be holding drawings for $20, $30, and $40 gift certificates. If you’d like a chance to win, you’ll have to stop by the shop over the course of the weekend.
Small Business Saturday has proven to be successful with a number of local shops in recent years as word of the event has spread. “The turnout has been wonderful,” said Sola Anderson, marketing manager for Wintergreen Northern Wear in Ely. “We’re grateful that so many people are acknowledging the importance of small businesses.”
Wintergreen will, once again, be offering discounts throughout the weekend. There, you’ll receive 20-percent off everything in the store, beginning on Friday morning through Sunday evening.
According to Anderson, the closing of Ely’s only true big-box store, Shopko, has helped people realize just how important these small businesses are, both to the city and overall. She says local stores provide good jobs as well as financial contributions to the community.
“When our community supports local businesses, the domino effect occurs as the money is circulated within the community,” says Anderson. “Shopping local keeps businesses in town.”
Keeping businesses in town is of vital importance because it would be, as Anderson puts it, “a terrible inconvenience” not to have them. Ely’s Chamber of Commerce even attempted to collect a list of products that businesses in town carry to help consumers find the items they need locally, rather than having to drive the fifty miles to Virginia.
“Ely is a small town comprised of small, family businesses,” says Anderson. “What goes around stays around.”
While the idea of shopping locally is catching on with some shoppers, not everyone has gotten the message. Marit Kringstad, who operates Nordic Home North in Tower, noted that not a single person stopped by the store on Small Business Saturday last year, despite her best efforts to advertise the event. She said this suggests that many people are choosing to do their shopping at big box stores in Virginia and Duluth.
“That is their decision,” she says, “But soon they will have no options in Tower and Soudan.”
Despite the lack of turnout last year, Kringstad still plans to hold special sales for the event. She’s offering a thirty-three percent discount on “in stock” Nepali handwoven rugs, and if you spend $100 on gifts and things at the store, you’ll receive $20 off. She will also be serving Norweigan Krumkake and hot apple cider to those who stop in during the day.
“We will be open and looking forward to welcoming any and all customers who may stop by to see us,” she says.
The concept of Small Business Saturday arose in the wake of the Great Recession as a way to help small businesses survive the economic devastation brought on by the financial collapse. Since its inception, an estimated $103 billion dollars have been spent by consumers during the event. This is good news for both the businesses and the communities in which they are located because, according to a 2018 Small Business Economic Impact study commissioned by SBS founder American Express, sixty-seven cents out of every dollar spent at a small business remains in the local community.
Supporting local businesses is not all about purchasing material goods. Every time you stop in at a coffee shop such as Sulu’s Espresso Café in Tower, or the Front Porch in Ely, you’re supporting a local business. When you grab lunch at the Montana Café in Cook or the Tower Café in Tower, you’re supporting a small business. When you buy a gift subscription to your favorite local newspaper, you’re making a difference.
So, as you head out to do your holiday shopping this year, keep the spirit of this event in mind and do what you can to support your community by shopping locally.