BY SCARLETT SALEM — This year, more national retailers unlocked their doors on Thanksgiving Day, kicking off the Black Friday shopping frenzy earlier than ever. But some shoppers waited for the deals from independent stores on November 30: Small Business Saturday.
Ironically enough, it was a big business — American Express — that came up with the idea in 2010, inviting small businesses to register for the program. Cardholders get a $10 rebate once they spend at least $10 at a participating store on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The idea quickly caught on and has been growing ever since, according to American Express.
Local businesses got in on the spirit. At Franklins’ General Store, everything was 20 percent off from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Across the street, Arrow Bicycle was offering a 10 percent discount on kids’ bikes, but didn’t see an uptick in shoppers.
“Buying a bike in 40 degree weather isn’t on someone’s radar,” said Arrow co-owner Chris Militello. “If Small Business Saturday was middle of May, we would kill it, but [now] isn’t a time where people would be interested.”
But despite the lack of sales, Militello still supports the event. “It’s a great advertisement for small businesses of America. The fact that a huge corporation is driving business locally is huge.”
In 2009, Community Forklift began hosting Green Friday the day after Thanksgiving; a spin on the traditional Black Friday.
“You don’t have to buy mindless stuff, you can buy thoughtful gifts,” said Outreach Director Ruthie Mundell. When staff learned of Small Business Saturday two years ago, they combined it with Green Friday into a weekend of demonstrations and other events.
This year, the Forklift offered free cider, coffee, snacks, live local music and local artists showing how they upcycle fabric scraps, pieces of wood, and old furniture. Sue Mondeel, of the Riverdale Park business Shabadaba Chic, gave various demonstrations including furniture painting and upcycling of reclaimed wood.
“I am showing [people] how to make what’s in my booth [at the Forklift, where her items are sold year round],” said Mondeel. “I am happy to share my epic fails to help others.”
“Small businesses keep us alive,” noted Mundell. Small business owners are among those who shop at Community Forklift and also donate supplies for re-sell. Now through Christmas, Community Forklift is also hosting its fourth annual Green Fair which allows local artists to consign their goods at the warehouse. The wares are mostly made of reclaimed materials, fitting with the Forklift’s theme, and range from vintage lamps to bath products.