Shoppers gave Kent merchants an extra something to be thankful about on Thanksgiving weekend by flooding downtown shops on Small Business Saturday.
Anthony Minerovic, a Kent State University student who works at Dr. Greenbee, a "sustainable living" store in Acorn Alley, said the informal shopping holiday, created in 2010 to encourage customers to shop at local small businesses, was a boon to the store Saturday.
"We've had 100-plus customers today," he said. "Sales are about 10 times what's typical (for a Saturday)."
Minerovic said word of mouth and promotional efforts, including a scavenger hunt and new holiday light and decoration display by the non-profit Main Street Kent, boosted traffic to Dr. Greenbee and other downtown Kent businesses.
Bob Mayfield, owner of McKay Bricker Framing and Black Squirrel Gallery and Gifts, said the shopping event brought more customers and cash into downtown Kent this year than in prior years. Mayfield said his business had exceeded its sales numbers from 2011's Small Business Saturday by mid-afternoon this year.
"We knew it was going to be big," Mayfield said. "Main Street Kent did a lot to promote it this year. On the national level, it's been promoted a lot more and it's gotten a lot more press."
American Express created Small Business Saturday in 2010, with the intention of giving local firms a boost in between Black Friday, a big earner for the big box retailers, and Cyber Monday, a day where shoppers seek the best deals from online sellers. Many small businesses across the country partner for the event with American Express, which gives rebates of up to $25 to its credit card users when they shop at its local partners during the holiday.
Mayfield said some of his store's customers were taking advantage of the rebate promotion, but many were simply out to support the business community in downtown Kent.
Gwen Rosenberg of Popped!, the gourmet popcorn store in Acorn Alley II, said she saw a big increase in customers Saturday, but also Friday, when shoppers traditionally focus on big box stores and malls.
"Everybody's looking for an excuse to go out and shop local," Rosenberg said.
Mayfield said he was not surprised Small Business Saturday is becoming a big event in Kent. He said the city's residents have always been supportive of the unique shops and galleries downtown.
"People rally around the small business owners here in Kent," Mayfield said. "People are willing to give the small businesses in Kent a chance. That's all we ask for."
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