Retailers prep for event

Event held Saturday after Thanksgiving

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Christie Jordan, owner of Diversity Salon & Spa, cuts Diana Alston’s hair. Jordan, who has always been an advocate for small businesses, says small businesses drive the economy.

Local small businesses are ready for their day in the spotlight — Nov. 25 marks the eighth annual Small Business Saturday.

According to a press release, the annual celebration was founded by American Express in 2010 and is held each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage all Americans to support independent businesses across the country, from their neighborhood cafe to the toy store down the street.

“We are proud to see how Small Business Saturday continues to inspire communities. This year we will again celebrate the small businesses that make our neighborhoods feel like home,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, Executive Vice President, Global Advertising and Brand Management at American Express in a statement. “We’ve seen firsthand that when small businesses thrive, our neighborhoods, towns and cities thrive. So this Small Business Saturday we encourage everyone to visit the diverse range of small businesses that make up the fabric of their communities.”

The Blair County Chamber of Commerce is participating and encouraging as many small businesses as possible to get involved in promoting the importance of the day and the impact that small businesses have on our community.

“Take those businesses away and we’re in real trouble, both from an economic standpoint and quality of life,” president/ CEO Joe Hurd said. “Small businesses too often take a backseat to large retailers and never really get the respect they deserve.”

Local merchants are excited about their day in the sun.

“For the past two years, Small Business Saturday has been bigger than Black Friday for us. We do about a month’s business in those two days,” said LaVonne Falbo, owner of LaVintage Decor Studio, Juniata. “Our business has been increasing every year. Altoona is experiencing a resurgence with specialty stores. People are appreciating handmade items more than ever. People want to put their money in the pockets of local businesses rather than the big box stores.”

“That day has always been one of my top five days of the year. People come in large numbers to show their support,” said Natasha McKnight, owner of Sapphire9, Hollidaysburg. “You see people pulling away from the malls. There has been a big resurgence in the sense of community. People are craving shopping small at places where they know you and can help you in a greater way.”

Stephanie Hite, owner of Trade Secrets, 1223 13th Ave., will participate for the first time.

“I am so excited about it. We just opened in February of this year. If not for people shopping at local small businesses, we would not be able to have opened. We don’t do any online sales. All of our sales are based on who comes through the door. We need the support of the community,” Hite said.

Small Business Saturday is a great program, said Kim McEldowney, owner of New Look Uniform and Embroidery, 800 S. 20th St.

“I think they (small businesses) are very important to the community. They are your neighbors, friends and family. We should support our neighbors rather than the billion dollar corporations that don’t give back to the community,” McEldowney said.

Christie Jordan, owner of Diversity Salon and Spa, 1116A 12th St., has always been an advocate for small businesses.

“Small businesses are what drives the economy. Everyone should support small businesses. They are our family and friends,” Jordan said.

Robert Fiore, president of Fiore Furniture, 201 Cayuga Ave., calls small businesses the “backbone” of the community.

“We are asked almost every day to donate to something. Look at the program books and see who is supporting the arts and all of the Little League teams. We are the ones who are buying the ads and supporting the local sports teams. I am not sure those from out of town do that,” Fiore said.

“I think the small businesses are as important as the bigger ones. Some of the larger businesses in our area such as Sheetz and The Meadows started out as small businesses,” said Nick Castellucci, owner of Lucci’s Little Italian Marketplace, Hollidaysburg Plaza.

Small Business Saturday is an important day, said Lee Anne Ehredt, owner of Green Home Goods, 5901B Sixth Ave.

“I think it has created top of mind awareness that small businesses are here. We are individuals investing in the community, creating an atmosphere you can’t find in the big box stores or on the internet. I’ve seen growth. People are more confident in opening and investing. We need the community to support us to stay open,” Ehredt said.

Small Business Saturday is a a terrific opportunity for American Express, the local chamber and local businesses to highlight the importance of small businesses in the community, said Todd Lewis, owner/ treasurer of Shoe Fly Stores in the Pleasant Valley Shopping Center.

“It is a good message and ties in with the chamber’s Buy Here Live Here campaign. Local business is a critical part of our local economy,” Lewis said.

Local small businesses can provide customers with better service, said Jeff Arthur, owner of Blair Mill Outlet, Hollidaysburg.

“The small independent stores have great employees. The employees have more knowledge about the products they are selling. We train our people to know the products they are selling. Employees at the big box stores don’t always have the knowledge of what they are selling,” Arthur said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.