A day for small businesses to shine

Haddonfield was alive with foot traffic as shoppers took advantage of Small Business Saturday. The town offered gift certificates,and stores advertised discounts all weekend. RON TARVER /Staff Photographer
Haddonfield was alive with foot traffic as shoppers took advantage of Small Business Saturday. The town offered gift certificates,and stores advertised discounts all weekend. RON TARVER /Staff Photographer
Posted: December 02, 2013

Karen Donges lives two miles from the Deptford Mall, but you won't see her among the crowds there or at any other mall this holiday season.

"I visit the small businesses," Donges said, "because they need us."

Nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday, a day for mom-and-pop shops to shine during a time when sales at chain stores stretch through the Thanksgiving weekend.

American Express started the nationwide effort to get more people to support local businesses and boost their local economies three years ago, and it has been growing since. Half of America's workforce owns or is employed by the country's 28 million small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter visited shops in the East Girard commercial corridor in Fishtown to mark the day.

"While it is often the big deals and major developments that get the headlines," Nutter said in a statement, "it is Philadelphia's small-business men and women who drive our economy on a daily basis, representing the vast majority of businesses in Philadelphia."

Donges and LaVonne Jones spent Saturday shopping along Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, near the Lourdes Wellness Center, where both women work.

They were also drawn to Collingswood by its holiday parade, which ended in plenty of time for shoppers to patronize local businesses.

Collingswood and Haddonfield offered gift certificates to shoppers, and stores advertised discounts all weekend. In those and other towns, customers could shop among community touches such as free homemade holiday cookies and a corkboard advertising the high school play.

"People want to have a place they can safely come with their family and enjoy the beauty and tranquillity," said Karla Howard Heartsfield. She and her husband, David Howard, own Howard Heartsfield Gallery in Haddonfield, which sells handmade jewelry, hand-knitted garments, hand-painted cigar boxes, and other specialty items.

They said Small Business Saturday meant a lot to them.

"The mall has so much money and gimmicks, and people forget about small businesses," Howard said.

Medford Village didn't have a parade on Saturday or townwide drives to encourage shopping. Several storefronts had "for sale" signs in the windows.

Dotty McNaughton, who has owned Heather Fine Furnishings on South Main Street for 16 years, is retiring and will close her home-accessory store in January. She said the community had supported her and she hoped another small business would replace hers.

"You get that personal touch people have to support if they want these towns to stay," she said.

For every $100 spent in an independent small business, $68 comes back to the community through taxes and other spending, according to a 2011 U.S. Senate resolution recognizing Small Business Saturday.

Christian Chickachop, his wife, Tara McGill, and their 16-month-old daughter, Audrey Nova, were part of the flood of customers at the duck duck goose toy store after Collingswood's holiday parade. The Collingswood family often shops locally.

"Big businesses tend to get more favors, tax breaks and things," Chickachop, 31, said. "It's tough for the small guys to get anything."

The toy store's owners, Katherine and Ato Swann, said they got much of their business through word of mouth. They've gotten to know local families who come to their free playroom in the back. People didn't go to the store just for Small Business Saturday, Katherine Swann said.

"It's almost like a redundancy in this town because so many people support us already," she said. "You could say it's already worked here."


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8105 @MichaelleBond

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