While weary-eyed shoppers seeking bargains in the early morning hours of Black Friday may flock to shopping centers from Des Moines to Chicago, businesses around Newton have their eyes on a different date — Nov. 24.
This day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, marks Small Business Saturday, an initiative brought to life by American Express in 2010 and sponsored in part by Fed-Ex this year.
“It’s kind of a new thing that started a couple of years ago,” said Darrell Sarmento, Executive Director for the Newton Chamber of Commerce. “American Express started sponsoring it and it kind of took off from there. It’s a way of encouraging people to shop locally and support small businesses during the holidays.”
While the program is the brainchild of American Express, local businesses needn’t register in order to participate. Those who choose to, including Choices Christian Bookstore at 101 W. Second St. N., will be sporting promotional posters and doormats, encouraging customers to “Shop Small.”
“It’s great that they promote and encourage people to go shop local on that Saturday,” said Julie Jones, owner of Choices. “They’re hoping to spur the economy because they know that small businesses do that. I think it’s great, but obviously I have a small business,” she laughed.
Even for businesses not formally participating in the program, the focus on supporting local businesses this Saturday remains strong.
“I know I can’t compete with with the larger retailers on Black Friday,” said Bonnie Terpstra, owner of the Farmer’s Wife shop at 124 W. Second Ave. N.
As a result, she’s turned her focus to the days before and after the largest shopping day of the year. In addition to the 6-8:30 p.m. shopping event the Farmer’s Wife will host on Thanksgiving, Terpstra has been getting the word out about Saturday as well.
“We don’t accept American Express, but I’ve promoted it on my Facebook that it is Small Business Saturday in hopes that people will come out and support our local businesses,” she said.
While the Downtown Christmas Open House kicked off the holiday season in Newton, the weekend following Thanksgiving is chock full of opportunities to explore and experience downtown and the businesses that call it home.
“Our Downtown Christmas Open House was really our launch into the holiday season where we try to bring attention to local retailers before Black Friday,” Sarmento said.
While most downtown retailers won’t be opening early for Black Friday deals, expect some to extend hours into the evening leading up to the Lighted Christmas Parade and Courthouse Lighting ceremony.
Uncle Nancy’s Coffeehouse and Eatery, for one, will offer visitors a place to sit down and warm up with a coffee or hot chocolate before festivities kick off on Friday evening, says owner Gina Adams. Terpstra added that the Farmer’s Wife will be open as usual on Friday as well.
As a result of inclement weather during the Christmas Open House, there will be yet another incentive for downtown shoppers on Saturday.
“Since our carriage rides were rained out on (Nov. 11), we rescheduled them for the 24th to encourage people to come downtown,” Sarmento said, agreeing that Saturday presents a great opportunity for local shoppers who may have spent Friday in larger cities to regroup and take a closer look at retail within their own community.
“If we want to have a great downtown with lots of shops, which we’re really working on improving, we have to support them,” Sarmento said. “We have so many shops that are decorated for the holidays and have great people running them. I encourage people to come explore downtown, look around and take this chance to support the local economy.”
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at email@example.com.