ELKHART — With the Black Friday rush in the rearview mirror, Saturday, Nov. 30, was small retailers’ day to enjoy.
Saturday was small business focused around the country, and local retailers took advantage of the intentional emphasis to offer deals to customers looking to help out neighborhood businesses.
Jon Weaver, owner of Martin’s Pet and Garden Center, took the occasion to offer specials to customers on wild bird feed.
The store also offered free “Shop Small” cloth bags to the first 25 customers that entered the business Saturday.
Despite Weaver’s admission that his store generally does the best in the spring, Martin’s Pet and Garden Center saw a steady stream of patrons Saturday.
Weaver said the growing movement to support local businesses, coupled with the organized focus of Small Business Saturday, have been beneficial to businesses like his that can’t compete with big box retailers on one major platform.
“Obviously, small stores like us don’t have the budget for advertising that big stores do that get right in your face,” Weaver said.
The Mod Closet also participated in the day’s event, as it has for several years, according to owner Doni Funkhouser.
The clothing store offered 25 percent off any item if customers mentioned a promotion posted on the store’s Facebook page.
Funkhouser said the store usually offers a deal on a certain article of clothing, but that this was the Mod Closet’s first year trying the Facebook promotion.
“I’ve noticed an increase earlier on in the day,” Funkhouser said. “There are peaks and valleys but there are more people today than usual.”
Funkhouser said the day has been vital to bringing in new customers to her business.
“Usually I notice new faces every year for Small Business Saturday because people are specifically looking to experiment and see what’s out there a little more,” Funkhouser said.
Michael Phelps, owner of Designs by Michael, said his store was open for the first time on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Knowing the emphasis of Saturday’s event, Phelps said he decided to open his doors to gauge the possibilities for future participation and possible advertising.
He said the number of customers warranted Designs by Michael to be open on future Small Business Saturdays.
Weaver and Funkhouser said many people that came to their stores Saturday were well aware of the day’s added emphasis on shopping small. That may be another indicator that the locally focused shopping movement is growing, at least in Elkhart County.
“At first, you didn’t hear much about it until the actual day, but every year it seems to be getting a little bit stronger,” Weaver said.
“The shop small and shop local have kind of merged together,” he said. “That makes a big difference.”
“It’s a great opportunity for people to find out what’s in their neighborhood,” Funkhouser said.