Local events, team sports, school districts and charities all rely on the support of local small businesses.
And Small Business Saturday, to be held Nov. 25, is designed to let shoppers return the favor.
American Express launched the annual observance on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2010 to remind shoppers of the value of small businesses. More than a decade later, the initiative is observed in all 50 states, steering roughly $184 billion to small business since its inception.
American Express created a new goal to drive $100 billion in reported consumer spending at small businesses from 2021 through 2025.
Locally owned small businesses create two out of three net new jobs, and in Pennsylvania, small businesses employ 2.6 million individuals, said Small Business Administration Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator John Fleming.
“When you shop local, you’re putting your money right back into your own towns and neighborhoods,” Fleming said. “For every $100 you spend at a locally owned business, roughly $68 stays in your local economy compared to only $43 from the big guys.”
Fleming said an interesting fact to know about small businesses is that they donate roughly 250% more to local nonprofits than large businesses. In Blair County, about 80 percent of the members of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce are small businesses.
According to Chamber president/CEO Joe Hurd, small businesses are crucial for the success of the local economy and one of the biggest ways to support them is to observe Small Business Saturday. He said Blair County would struggle mightily without the presence of its mom and pop shops.
“It’s no secret that our chamber places a high priority on doing whatever we can to help small businesses to be successful,” Hurd said. “Small Business Saturday is just one occasion where we can emphasize the importance of supporting those businesses.”
Some local owners and leaders echoed Hurd’s sentiments, with Altoona Beauty School president Linzi Biesinger saying communities help strengthen the foundation of the local economy by investing in the health and growth of local businesses. That support is also reciprocated by the businesses, which hire community members and donate to community causes. The owners are from the area themselves, so it’s a personal matter for them.
“They take pride in their communities,” Biesinger said. “We support our community events, schools, fundraisers and keep dollars in our home towns.”
Blair Mill Outlet co-owner Ginney Arthur agreed, saying a lot of businesses invest in their school districts (both the academic and the athletic sides), charities and events.
“They keep the money local so small businesses can support the children of the community,” Arthur said.
MarCia’s Chocolates in Greenwood is a small, family-owned business that emphasizes the need for the community’s support. Owner Marcia Cumming said she employs many locals and she makes sure the business is involved in community events.
“We donate to many fundraisers each year and we can’t do any of that without support from the community in return,” Cumming said. “Our business prides itself on making a high quality product at a fair price with great customer service.”
Shoe Fly Shoes marketing director Lauren Klapper said small businesses foster “financial stability at the local level” by circulating funds around the community. She said that creates a “ripple effect” that builds up other local businesses.
“Small business owners and employees like ours build personal relationships with customers, understand local needs and actively participate in community events and initiatives,” Klapper said.
Thanks to Small Business Saturday, some area establishments have experienced major support in recent years, leading to a big bump in sales and revenue. Statement Designs (formerly LaVintage Decor) offers many handmade and locally-made products in its store. Owner LaVonne Falbo said many customers can’t find some of the things offered in her store at major retailers.
“Many folks I talk to prefer to shop small if they can rather than shop at big box stores,” Falbo said.
Some owners and business heads, like Peterman’s Flower Shop president Andrea Hammel, are skeptical of American Express’ true intentions behind the Small Business Saturday initiative, calling it a gimmick to make more money, but are still thankful for the effect it has on local communities.
“SBS is a wonderful concept in the eyes of our loyal customers as it brings awareness to the importance of supporting locally owned retailers,’ Hammel said. “Customer service and personal attention seem difficult to find, except in a shop where you know the owner, the employees and the delivery guy.”
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.