Local stores celebrating Small Business Saturday
EAGLE COUNTY — Black Friday and the following days are a busy time for many large, national retailers, but in Eagle County, a number of locally owned businesses are taking back part of the shopping week with Small Business Saturday.
The campaign began in 2010 by American Express to show support for the mom-and-pop shops of the country. In the Vail Valley, the day has become embraced by a growing number of business owners, both as a day to offer promotions and sales, or simply as a way to remind shoppers that, “Hey, we’re here, too!”
Among the deals for shoppers: $199 on a whole home carpet clean from J&J Cleaning Services, extra discounts off certain racks at Rouge Boutique, and 10 percent off your entire purchase at Kiwi Boutique.
The weekend already seemed to be underway on Friday as shoppers buzzed around the villages and shopping centers of the valley. A number of stores were already displaying their blue Small Business Saturday posters in the doorway, including at Ptarmigan Sports.
“This is the start of a big shopping week for us, when people start to think about Christmas shopping,” said Mike Sayers, general manager at Ptarmigan Sports. “This is a good way to help get people shopping and thinking about us.”
The appeal of shopping local
In an age where shoppers can purchase almost anything online for cheaper than in a brick-and-mortar store, local stores have to work especially hard to attract customers.
Whitney Hathorn, owner of Kiwi Boutique, says she tries to stay competitive with online prices, even offering to match a lower price found elsewhere.
“I try and make people realize that I really want them to buy here and not online,” she said, adding that she’s a huge supporter of Small Business Saturday. “I’m a small business in a very local community, so I really like to encourage the support.”
For Saturday, in addition to offering 10 percent off the purchase, she also is giving a free pair of earrings to customers who come in with a keyword from the store’s Facebook page. Stores like hers stay around because they become part of the community and offer personalized customer service, she said.
“The feedback I hear is that people like to know they’re supporting the community. They like the service, and they can come in an chat and find out what there is going on around here,” she said.
At Venture Sports in Avon and Vail, owner Mike Brumbaugh agrees that exemplary service will keep shoppers coming back. He personally always tries to support other small business in the area, he said.
“I think people like the ambiance of a small business, and there’s a different level of service than when you’re at a big box store,” he said. “I never buy anything online. If I need a pair of shoes, I always go into Ptarmigan or Haute Route and purchase from someone who knows what they’re talking about. It may be $10 more, but personally, I get $10 more enjoyment out of that experience than shopping online, so it’s worth it to me.”
Edwards resident Cheryl Foley was shopping for jewelry at Brush Creek Dry Goods in Riverwalk. It’s one of her favorite stores in the area, and she nodded emphatically when asked if she made a point to shop locally.
“I like to support the businesses here in the valley. We have a variety of choices, and I especially like the fact that I get to know the owners personally,” she said.
Some local businesses took a big hit during the economic downturn, but have seen the holiday shopping season reviving over the last few years.
Faith Bleesz of Brush Creek Dry Goods said she remembers a few years ago when some 12 or 13 other storefronts in Riverwalk sat empty. Now, business has picked back up, said Bleesz. She and her husband take Small Business Saturday to showcase some of their Christmas gift items — rabbit fur boot covers, stylish gloves and Tommy Bahama Broncos sweaters, to name a few.
“We’ve been here 17 years, and it takes some perseverance to make it as a small business,” she said. “We’ve developed a following of customers, and we try to stay with the times so we stay fresh.”
Similarly, Slifer Designs is also highlighting its small gift collection for Small Business Saturday. Offering smaller retail items was actually one way the business weathered the economic downturn, said showroom manager Lisa Mikels.
“All businesses had to adapt to the ‘new normal’ as far as the economy goes,” she said. “We’ve broadened our appeal by bringing in many more gift-type items. You can shop for a sofa at Slifer Designs, but you can also find a gift for that special someone.”
Joselyn Brubaker, owner of Rouge Consignment Boutique, said she opened her shop while the economy was low, and has seen it steadily grow since.
“I think that was partially due to growth of the business and partially due to the economy,” she said. “However, I am seeing more local shoppers, which is probably more of an indicator of the economy.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.
Wolves were a problem for ranchers when Kip Gates’ great-great-grandfather homesteaded in the area. He doesn’t want the problem to return.