Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce is one of the local organizations promoting Small Business Saturday.
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The holiday shopping season continues with Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24 where residents are encouraged to peruse local stores and support the neighbors who own them.
First started on Nov. 27, 2010 by American Express, this movement has grown nationally, to join Black Friday and Cyber Monday in emboldening people to open their wallets. That movement has reached the Capital District, and the Bethlehem and Guilderland Chambers of Commerce, in particular, are hoping that the crowds don’t just shop at larger-scale stores and have each prepared themselves as Saturday neared.
On the Bethlehem side, its chamber’s president Maureen McGuinness said that it has been a Neighborhood Champion for the movement on the local level.
She explained that the chamber has frequently corresponded with and received promotional materials from Amex for several months now. Such materials included signs, reusable shopping bags, pens and banners, which all aim to supply participating small businesses in order to promote Small Business Saturday and their stores.
In turn, the chamber gives information back to Amex so that it can gather nationwide statistics as to how many small businesses are participating in the movement. This year, she said that the chamber generally first reached out to small businesses to ask if they want to take part in the movement and let them know of the benefits, such as getting the aforementioned promotional materials.
“We also have been promoting Small Business Saturday by communicating about it in our weekly newsletters and on social media,” McGuinness said. “It makes sense for the chamber to help out because we have dynamic businesses which would benefit the community.”
On the Guilderland side, its chamber’s president Michelle Viola-Straight said that it has also been gathering marketing bags filled with promotional materials which it gave out to its sphere of small businesses. “We’ve been promoting to people to think, ‘Shop local,’ and reshape their mindsets,” she said.
The chamber has organized an event at the Guilderland Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 24 where 25 vendors would be set up where they can promote themselves, interact with residents, expand their social media outreach and network with other small businesses. Happening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the list of vendors include Avon, Color Street, Mary Kay, Norwex, One Hope Wine, and Young Living Oils.
Viola-Straight specifically noted how the chamber has paid attention to Altamont too where it reached out to small businesses there.
“Altamont is a tight and small community, and the people there love their small businesses. They do have a different set of concerns and hurdles to jump as residents there shop more within Altamont and don’t typically want to go out to other areas to shop,” she said. “So in general, we want to help businesses and work with local officials to create rich economic growth for each town, although in Altamont, we want to keep in mind its quaint, rustic aspect as well.”
She also brought up how the chamber has started setting up the Altamont Business Council which would be one of its divisions—it would have its chair and committee. She has attended town meetings in Altamont and even met with New Scotland’s Douglas LaGrange in hopes of setting up another council in that town too.
“By next year, we hope for two separate councils in Altamont and New Scotland,” she said.
In Guilderland, Viola-Straight said that there have been many people moving into the town from elsewhere in the country in hopes of opening their own business and joining the chamber.
“Lots of folks will contact us and say, ‘I’m looking to move from like California or Connecticut’ and they’d ask about what the Guilderland area is like and where places like hospitals, stores, and schools are. We’re basically a one-stop shop for business needs and advice.”
Uncle Sam’s All American Chocolate Factory—having a Colonie store at Newton Plaza on 594 New Loudon Road in Latham and a Schenectady one on 2571 Albany St.—is one of the many small family-owned businesses that will take part in Small Business Saturday.
Assistant Erin Bagdriwicz said that it will have deals and markdowns in hopes of encouraging customers to visit and support the business. “A regular box of peanut brittle would cost $7.99 but on Small Business Saturday, two boxes will be $10,” she said, giving some examples. “The caramel gourmet apples will be half priced too. Their regular prices had ranged from $4.99 and up.”
The business will also augment its loyalty rewards program by giving an extra loyalty stamp for every $50 purchase.
When asked about why Small Business Saturday is important, McGuinness said that from an economic standpoint, it makes more financial sense to shop small.
“67 cents for every dollar that’s spent in small businesses stays in the community,” she explained, adding that such businesses also employ neighbors. “That figure is different if you shop at a national chain or bigger store, where only 43 cents of a dollar stay in the community.”
She added that small businesses “give our community a flavor and sense of who we are—where you have coffee, who you see, where you buy a book. All those things make our community unique and it’s where you see your neighbors. That’s important, and you can’t get that anywhere else, and that’s what makes Bethlehem.”
Bagdriwicz said that Uncle Sam’s would greatly benefit from Small Business Saturday because “it is family-un and it would be continuing to provide for the community. The bigger types of stores can afford to get a lot of publicity all year round whereas smaller ones can’t always.”
She noted that most stores at Newton Plaza, its Colonie location, are small and local businesses. “We want to help switch people’s mindset from going to large stores like Walmart, which they probably would have gone for Black Friday, to going to smaller stores like us to support the community,” she said.
Viola-Straight similarly said that small businesses feel more connected with residents.
“Looking at Small Business Saturday at the big picture, it’s about supporting your community and the many local businesses owned by residents who have raised their families here,” she said. “Like if you go down to the local hardware stores, those are family-owned and they typically have been working there for 15 to 20 years.”
She did point out that Crossgates Mall is within Guilderland which does have some local-owned stores even though people may assume it only includes bigger chain stores.
“But small businesses are about being back home and walking into a store where you know the guy behind the counter and say, ‘Hey Joe, how are the kids?’” she concluded. “Small businesses gives this big sense of community which, in my opinion, is very needed in this day and age.”