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Small Business Saturday starts shopping season for many

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 4:00 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Owner Jeff Double works in at his 'All About Reclaimed' shop (inside the 'Over Again' store) along Main Street in Butler on Tuesday, November 19, 2013. Store owners say they work together to attract business.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Owner Robin Fleming in from of her Room to Grow store in Zelienople Tuesday, November 19, 2013. Fleming says she'll run promotions during Thanksgiving weekend, hoping to catch people coming back from midnight-sales.
Owner Robin Fleming in her Room to Grow store in Zelienople Tuesday, November 19, 2013. Small Business Saturday encourages customers to patronize smaller stores. Fleming is hoping that she'll get customers who are returning to town to visit their families.
Owner Michelle Mathew in the Zelienople Mathew Jewelers store Tuesday, November 19, 2013.
Marianne Curry, left, owner of 'Over Again' with Lori Sessa, who has her 'Someplace for Gifts' inside Curry's store along Main Street in Butler, Tuesday, November 19, 2013.
Owner Jenn Wohlgamuth inside her Mojo running & Mulitsport store in Seven Fields Tuesday, November 19, 2013. She expects the Saturday after Thanksgiving to be one of the busiest days of the year in her store.
Marianne Curry in her 'Over Again' store along Main Street in Butler Tuesday, November 19, 2013. The store shares space with 'All About Reclaimed.' Over Again sells a blend of furniture andhome décor items and 'All about Reclaimed is a flower shop. They share about 700-square feet of space.

The weekend after Thanksgiving brings people out in droves for parades, light-up celebrations and Christmas shopping, with small businesses benefiting significantly from the holiday activity in their communities.

“People are excited to be out shopping and excited for the holiday season, so it's a great way to get people into the store and into town,” said Michelle Mathew, third generation owner of Mathew Jewelers in Zelienople.

Although Black Friday is recognized as the beginning of the holiday shopping season for major retailers, small businesses look to the Saturday after Thanksgiving — dubbed Small Business Saturday — as the kickoff to their holiday rush.

Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 by American Express as a way to support small, locally owned businesses through the holiday shopping season.

In 2011, Congress officially recognized Small Business Saturday as a way “to encourage consumers to shop locally and increase awareness of the value of locally owned small businesses.”

American Express estimates that consumers spent $5.5 billion last year during Small Business Saturday.

Small businesses, firms with fewer than 500 employees, make up more than 90 percent of Butler County's 4,051 businesses, according to 2010 census data. Of those small businesses, 3,072 of them employ less than 20 people.

Jenn Wohlgamuth, owner of Mojo Running and Multisport in Seven Fields, said Small Business Saturday is one of the biggest sales days of the year for her store.

She beefs up inventory, begins holiday gift wrapping and runs a few sales but mostly relies on a loyal customer base for support.

“We understand that we cannot go up against Dick's and Wal-Mart, so we don't try,” Wohlgamuth said.

“We just do a little bit more on Saturday, and most of our customers come by just to support us on that day.”

The nonprofit Butler Downtown, a main street revitalization organization that works in part with the Butler County Chamber of Commerce, encourages the small-business community in Butler to be open all day, to run sales and promotions and take advantage of “Shop Small” online marketing tools and storefront signs through American Express, said manager Chelynne Curci.

American Express also offers registered customers a $10 credit to their account if they spend more than $10 at a qualifying small business on Small Business Saturday.

Curci said much of the traffic in town comes from Butler's Spirit of Christmas Parade and light up activities on Saturday night.

“They try to make that entire day a really big celebration and bring people downtown all day,” she said.

Marianne Curry, owner of Over Again Consignment and Redesign in Butler, said promotions from Butler Downtown and traffic from the Saturday night holiday activities in Butler have made Small Business Saturday successful for her shop.

“People like to shop small and like their Butler businesses, especially downtown,” Curry said, adding that other downtown stores band together and promote one another's special events and sales.

“We're like a little neighborhood on Main Street,” she said. “We all support each other.”

Robin Fleming, owner of Room to Grow Toys in Zelienople, said she runs special promotions and sales the entire weekend, but most of her business comes from those passing through town in the holiday spirit.

“All those mega-stores that have those midnight or early-morning sales, and people tend to come on their way back from those,” she said.

“Lots of people are visiting families because it's a holiday weekend, and they'll come walk through town, so we get those people too.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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