published Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Small Business Saturday urges Americans to buy local

Winder Binder sales associate Annie Oxenfeld rings up a customer's book purchases on Small Business Saturday, a day intended to focus holiday spending on shopping at locally owned businesses on Saturday in Chattanooga.
Winder Binder sales associate Annie Oxenfeld rings up a customer's book purchases on Small Business Saturday, a day intended to focus holiday spending on shopping at locally owned businesses on Saturday in Chattanooga.
Photo by Maura Friedman.
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    From left, Jennifer Holder, Hannah Legg and Jennifer Perry look around n2 Shoes on Saturday.
    Photo by Maura Friedman.
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    Barbara Kennedy walks to n2 shoes on Frazier Avenue during Small Business Saturday.
    Photo by Maura Friedman.
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    Molly Barley of the Popcorn Pantry in Hixson fills a bag for a customer shopping on Small Business Saturday.
    Photo by Maura Friedman.
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SHOPPING SMALL

$42.6 billion: Revenue produced if half of employed Americans spent $50 a month at a locally owned small businesses

$68: Amount per $100 spent at locally owned small businesses that comes back to the community via taxes, payroll and various expenses

$43: Amount per $100 spent at national chain stores that comes back to the community

Source: www.the350project.net

Because you can't buy Oreo gingerbread-flavored popcorn at the supermarket.

Or a 1980s-era encyclopedia of the Republic of Colombia with a little stain on the cover.

Two shoes made by the same hands at the same time are nice. So is handmade jewelry.

It's all around, here and there at Chattanooga's small businesses.

Or it was before the Small Business Saturday shoppers got to it.

This was the third annual Small Business Saturday, started by American Express in 2010 to help the little guys, trying to turn a profit at the brick-and-mortars around town, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Thanksgiving weekend has always been good to local merchants, even before the national Shop Small campaign. Like huge companies, small businesses have relied on the holiday spending frenzy to push their profits into the comfortable zone.

But a little help and exposure has been nice.

"I feel like the customers have become more aware of what it means to shop local," said Sherra Lewis, owner of Go Fish Clothing & Jewelry Co. on Frazier Avenue.

The store cut 30 percent off every item Saturday.

"That's a biggie for us," Lewis said. "It's important that we do well on this day because it sets the tone for the rest of the season."

Next-door, a customer at Winder Binder Gallery & Bookstore picked up an old record album and couldn't help but say "Wow."

"They want to buy something that means something," said sales associate Annie Oxenfeld. That might be books, toys, Chattanooga-themed car stickers or art created by local artists.

And shoppers were willing to pony up a little extra for something meaningful and local.

"If you want to find a good gift, you're going to have to spend that much no matter where you're at," said Katie Woodham, a Chattanooga resident and recent University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate.

"You find a lot of unique things," she said. "It's neat stuff. I like to give gifts that aren't normal."

To help invite shoppers in, Winder Binder put a blue rug with the Small Business Saturday logo at the front door. The shop registered with American Express months ago.

"Oh, yeah, it's been much busier than a normal Saturday," said Gina Micolo, store manager. "It's for sure helped."

Woodham, like many shoppers, intentionally shopped local to support locals.

And small business owners appreciate it. They know how stiff the competition is.

"The biggest problem we have as a small business is not just the big-box store, it's the online," said Alison Songer, owner of n2 Shoes on Frazier Avenue. "It's tough. So many people price-shop. You have to be frugal. You have to watch your dollars."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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