By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Tonawanda entrepreneurs are hoping residents take heed of the growing phenomena called Small Business Saturday, which is taking place across the country today.
Much like Black Friday, the industry-created event that has increasingly enticed shoppers to big box store sales earlier each year, Saturday’s affair also is gaining its own notoriety. The event was launched in 2010 by American Express to lure shoppers to mom and pop-run shops.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration nearly 70 million people purchased items last year at many of the nation’s 28 million small businesses, bringing in an estimated $5.5 billion.
And while the larger retailers rake in the bulk of the billions during the holiday season, small business owners often count on that time to survive another year.
Heather Kalisiak, 43, started Martinsville Emporium in 2011 along Niagara Falls Boulevard in North Tonawanda, and has seen a groundswell of traffic at her shop specializing in homemade soaps and lip balms. She said last year’s Small Business Saturday was her strongest yet, with more than 40 people in her store at any one time.
“It was my biggest day of the entire year,” she said. “I get half my sales through the year in November and December.”
Kory Schuler, who owns Sweet Briar Antiques on Broad Street in the City of Tonawanda, said he too has seen a wave of support for Small Business Saturday.
“The program has caught on and we’ve found it’s increasing every year,” he said. “As Black Friday has started earlier on Thanksgiving, customers are really embracing it. It’s a good thing. We try to encourage them to shop small 365 days a year. There’s a lot of local campaigns and national campaigns now. It really puts an emphasis on mom and pop shops.”
Kay Learned, who owns Hodgepodge on Webster Street in North Tonawanda, said she believes that American Express has thrown more of its weight behind the event with advertising, while the popularity of social media sites like Facebook also lend to awareness.
Because she accepts American Express cards, the company also sent her a welcome mat and sign that promote the small business, both of which are now situated in and around her shop.
“We do rely on local customers to stay in business,” she said. “We need foot traffic year-round but we count on it at Christmas time.”
Learned, who organized the Downtown Winter Walk in the Gateway Cities that will be held Dec. 7, said she and other local business owners have been using their own efforts as well to draw more residents to the shop local concept.
“They see our shops as having unique things,”she said. “They’re looking for niche items, they’re curious about shops that are different.”
Kalisiak, a lifelong North Tonawanda resident, will change the name of her shop and move part of it to Webster Street this week. She said when shoppers decide to spend their money locally it stays here, adding that she makes all of her products by hand and tries to buy her supplies as close to Western New York as possible.
“I like getting away from the Walmart mentality and more of the money is going to stay in the area,” she said. “When you buy something here you’re paying my daughter’s orthodontist bills, you’re helping my family.”
By Michael Regan email@example.com