Area small businesses encourage shoppers to consider them today

“Small Business Saturday is our single best day of the year. We hope people can come out and support,” said Carly Short co-owner of Heart Mercantile. AMELIA ROBINSON / STAFF FILE
“Small Business Saturday is our single best day of the year. We hope people can come out and support,” said Carly Short co-owner of Heart Mercantile. AMELIA ROBINSON / STAFF FILE

Study found that 64% of business owners feel Small Business Saturday is important as ever as pandemic continues.

The hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic are hoping people shop in their stores or buy online today as the busy holiday shopping season gets started.

Coined Small Business Saturday, area store owners said today offers them a chance to dig themselves out of hole left by the pandemic that has forced other small shops to shut their doors for good.

“Small Business Saturday is our single best day of the year. We hope people can come out and support,” said Carly Short co-owner of Heart Mercantile.

The store sells apparel, home and stationary items, and other goods. Since March, the store moved its focus to online but still allows six to eight people with face coverings in the store at a time. Short encourages people to shop online to keep everyone safe.

“We really pivoted and have been working on our online store and are going to continue put items online all throughout the holiday to keep people at home safe, with the option of instore pickup, contactless pickup or getting it shipped to them,” she said.

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The same is true for JaeLuxe Shoetique owner April Polk. She has a physical location in the Greene Town Center in Beavercreek but tries to conduct most of her business online.

“We would love for people to come in but the same great amazing deal you can find in the store is available online. It’s definitely been a struggle up and down,” she said.

Her store offers shoes, clothes and accessories and will offer sales online and in store starting on Thanksgiving with their 40% off sale, 30% off for Black Friday and 20% for Small Business Saturday. Polk plans to offer something for Cyber Monday as well.

Polk said it is imperative that people support local businesses on Small Business Saturday.

“We’re giving you things that you can’t find at a department store. We’re giving you different levels of customer service; we’re giving you an experience. We need support in order to give that,” she said.

A study by American Express, which created Small Business Saturday, found that 64% of business owners felt that this year the day is more important than ever. In 2019, roughly 110 million people participated, spending an estimated $19.6 billion, a record high, said Andy Goldberg, American Express’s senior vice president, global brand management and planning.

According to a Google survey, 66% of shoppers say they plan to shop more at small businesses. And the American Express study found that 88% of shoppers said they feel an obligation to support local businesses because of the difficulties many have endured during the pandemic.

But a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers forecast a sharp dip, with 59% of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers planning to shop this Saturday compared to 73% in 2019.

“With COVID spikes across the country and cold weather coming on, the holiday gift season may be the only thing that gets some industries through until the spring,’' spokeswoman for the Main Street Alliance Sarah Crozier told the AP. “Even if retail businesses see a fairly normal holiday season, it will not make up for the major revenue dips from the early part of the year.’'

Flour Bake Shop in downtown Xenia will be open for small business Saturday. Owner Becky Hawkes said the neighboring gift shop, which she also owns, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hawkes opened the gift shop in June of this year. She said taking on a new business and already being a small business owner in 2020 was a challenge.

“This year has been really weird. We’re watching our quarters and nickels and pennies, but things could be a whole heck of a lot worse,” she said.

Each month in 2020 has gotten better, Hawkes said, so she is hopeful for small business Saturday. About 65% of the items in her gift shop are made by local artisans, like stemless wine glasses with witty sayings on them or homemade apple butter. Hawkes said anyone who would feel more comfortable shopping in the gift shop alone, can give her a call and she will open the shop so they can shop by themselves.

“When you support a small business, you’re really supporting a dream,” Hawkes said.

The bakery side of the business will have Christmas candy out for sale, like hot chocolate bombs and fudge.

“I hope we go home exhausted and sold out,” Hawkes said.

Hawkes has owned and operated Flour Bake Shop for about three years. She said most businesses in downtown Xenia are usually closed on Black Friday, but many decided to stay open this year because of the coronavirus pandemic having forced so many to close for months earlier this year.

Troy Beck, who owns Rusty NChippy’s Antique Shop on South Detroit Street around the corner from Flour Bake Shop, said he also has hopes for Small Business Saturday.

Beck said he and his team plan to limit the number of people who can come into the store at a time and have had a cleaning station set up. Everything in the store more than $20 will be 15% off on small business Saturday.

“I think this year will be different because of the virus,” Beck said of small business Saturday. “I don’t expect we’ll be as busy as in years past.”

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Beck said the store recently had to eliminate two business days during the week since they have had less foot-traffic. Beck owns the antique shop with Erika Friend.

Beck said since the store opened nine years ago, they have some very loyal customers. He hopes to see them out on Small Business Saturday and see some out of town guests who were in visiting family for the holiday.

“Xenia’s downtown was going through a revitalization before the (coronavirus) with more and more small businesses opening up. And it seems we still have that momentum,” Beck said.

Beck said it is important to support small businesses because a lot of the small businesses that are still surviving could be just barely hanging on. Even sharing a small business’ Facebook page or telling a friend about it can help, he said.

“If you want to beat the big crowds at the big box stores, you should shop small businesses. You’ll be able to find beautiful, unique gifts with high customer service,” he said. “If people went out and bought one thing from a small business that they love, it would make such a big difference.”

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