By GWEN OREL
Every year television crews wait outside big box stores for the stampedes that start when Black Friday shopping begins.
You can expect lively footage of people coming to blows over televisions and American Girl dolls.
The day after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Many retailers now begin their sales earlier in the week. To avoid being crushed, some shoppers prefer online shopping, calling the day Cyber Friday.
But Thanksgiving weekend is also a good time to patronize local stores, where people might even have met you before.
Small Business Saturday has been a thing since 2010. American Express sponsored it, partnering with the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Roslindale Village Main Street, according to Wikipedia. The Twitter hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday began.
Israel Cronk, executive director of the Montclair Center Business Business Improvement District (BID), said that Amex started the project “because of the downturn of the economy. In a very loose way, Montclair Center has always been part of the show small movement. Last year we kind of ramped it up.”
BID had a table on Church Street with 250 balloons, bags and pins. Within a few hours, the street was lined with shoppers holding balloons, Cronk said.
Thy had a small business passport, with blank boxes that could be stamped by participating stores. Shoppers that completed them were eligible for a raffle. BID is doing it again this year, Cronk said. Passports are available in different locations. BID encourages people to use #shopsmall on their social networks. Some of the stores have already posted pictures with the hashtag on Instagram.
“Our job is to set a tone for the shoppers.” People might go into stores they never had, and smart retailers offer shoppers something special: a hot drink, a discount. For a list of shops participating in Shop Small, visit Montclaircenter.com.
The Township is making parking free in all two hour business districts in Montclair.
FREE RETURNS FOR SHOPPERS
Sharon Sevrens, owner of Amanti Vino, 30 Church St., said she participates to be supportive of the initiative. It’s not the
busiest day for a wineshop: in her business, the craziness happens the weekend before: “Nobody wants to run out of wine on Thanksgiving,” Sevrens said with a laugh, rubbing the belly of “working dog” Brody. Then it gets hectic again before Christmas, she said. Amanti Vino, which opened 12 years ago, will offer discounts on cases and on six bottles, and the wine tasting bar will be open at 2 p.m.
Cupcake store Small Cakes, 25 Church St., opened this past April, so did not participate in Shop Small last year. But for
owner Dawn Bruno taking part was a given: she chose Church Street for “the vibe,” and will be opening a soup store, Soupçon, in February 2018. “I want to participate in everything my neighbors are. Montclair has been so good to us. We’ll do anything we can do to give back.”
The shop also sells birthday cards, from merchants on Etsy: “I want to see small businesses succeed,” Bruno said.
For Renee Raskin, owner of Chez Renee, 50 Church St.,, said that she is friends with many of her customers, and that personal service is something that distinguishes a local shop from a big chain.
Like winestores, restaurants don’t necessarily see a huge traffic increase on Small Business Saturday. But for Berekti Mengistu, owner of the Ethiopian restaurant “Mesob,” 515 Bloomfield Ave., it’s still nice to “get people away from the mall. I love people trying to support local business.”
Diners Eryla and Talib Fleming, from Jersey City, said they don’t need incentive to eat at Mesob: they’ve eaten Ethiopian food in D.C., Brooklyn and New York City, and “this is the best,” Talib said.
‘ONE OF THE BEST DAYS’
For retail stores, Small Business Saturday warms the cash register as well as the heart. Chris Francois and Alex Aronoff, owners of sportswear store Heratij, 513 Bloomfield Ave., said their motto has always been “ditch the mall and shop small.”
“Our customers don’t do black Friday,” Francois said. The Shop Small passport was prominently displayed on their counter.
Aronoff said so long as the weather is good, Small Business Saturday is “always one of the best days.” Two years ago it was so good, he and Francois decided to keep it going and have a Small Business Sunday, too.
Just Kidding Around managers Gigi Garcia and Chelsea Smith said they also “preach shopping small” all year. “It’s nice to have one special day to do that,” Smith said.
At their toy store, they get to know customers and meet their children as they grow. “We’ve played with a lot of the toys
ourselves,” Garcia said. “We sell what we love.” Just Kidding Around is offering a 15 percent discount on an entire purchase.
Right now Star Wars, science kits, arts and crafts kits and all DIY (do it yourself) kits are big. And the hit book “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls,” a crowd-funded collection of bedtime stories about extraordinary women, is in stock.
In the Upper Montclair shopping district, the Shop Small passport isn’t in use, as they are not in Montclair Center, but stores are participating in the day. Popular coffee shop Java Love, 244 Bellevue Ave., will participate again.
Stitch, a clothing boutique that opened in April 2016, will also participate. Owner Caitlin Rinaldi, just 30 years old, opened the first Stitch in Madison last year, after working as a buyer for a corporate children’s clothing store. Stitch will offer a 25 percent discount on purchases, and 35 percent off outerwear.
In Madison, Caitlin said, Small Business Saturday was “our best day ever since we opened. It was heartwarming.
“All my regular customers came, plus countless new customers.”
Jen Rinaldi, Caitlin’s mother-in-law and partner, said that the Small Business Saturday movement “keeps a lively downtown. It means everything.” Small stores, she said, “participate in people’s dreams.”