Small Business Saturday keeps shoppers on the Harbor

Many holiday shoppers are familiar with the Black Friday phenomenon: bargain-crazed consumers lining up outside large chain stores early Friday morning, eagerly awaiting rock-bottom prices on electronics, clothes, kitchenware — just about anything.

But in recent years, small local businesses have come up with ways to get their piece of the holiday shopping pie, including Small Business Saturday, which takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Small Business Saturday is a nation-wide event founded by American Express in 2010 as part of the Shop Small campaign. Business owners can register online and receive promotional signs and logos, as well as a marker on the Shop Small map.

All varieties of Grays Harbor businesses — from restaurants to furniture stores to drug stores — participated in the event, including several newcomers.

McHugh’s Furniture, located in downtown Hoquiam, participated in the event for the first time this year, offering 50 percent off all merchandise. Store owner Greg McHugh said he had qualms about participating, but the event ended up being a success.

“At first I was worried because American Express is a big national company, one of what you’d call the ‘big evils,’ ” McHugh said. “But it actually seems like they were looking out for the little guy.”

The furniture store saw many returning customers, and some of McHugh’s family members showed up to lend a hand running the store. The event ended up being like a homecoming, he said.

“People really like their hometowns,” McHugh said. “We had a lot of people coming in who would have otherwise gone in to Olympia or Seattle. But I think they felt safer here. You see on the news all the chaos Black Friday causes, and it wasn’t like that.”

For some local businesses, Small Business Saturday can make or break the holiday shopping season, said Hoquiam Business Association President Ben Winkelman. The event can be an excuse for shoppers to stop in and visit a new store, or for store owners to experiment with hours.

“It was really encouraging for some of the businesses that aren’t usually open on Saturday,” Winkelman said. “If they were successful on Saturday, maybe they’ll think about staying open for other events.”

His father, Mario Winkelman, owns GH Unders. While the business has been around since 2005, GH Unders recently opened a storefront in downtown Hoquiam. It saw about 20 customers Saturday — and while that may seem like a small number, Ben Winkelman said his family is calling the event a success.

“We got 20 customers in the door, which is more people than we would have seen otherwise,” Winkelman said.

The Hoquiam Business Association will encourage local businesses to participate in Small Business Saturday in coming years, but the group needs to make a few improvements, Winkelman said. The business association didn’t release a complete list of participating businesses.

“There were two or three lists circulating that weren’t completely inclusive,” Winkelman said. “I think we can do better next year.”

Grays Harbor Wine Sellars owners Ryan and Karen Rowe also used the event as a way to bring new customers to a new business. Ryan Rowe said he enjoyed Small Business Saturday — especially since it got people to walk around downtown Aberdeen.

“It was really nice to see people out and about downtown,” Ryan Rowe said. “And we saw a lot of new faces. I think that was the best part.”


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