Shopping local on Small Business Saturday

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Mon., Nov. 26, 2012
A display at Willow Tree Primitives. Photos by D. Coffey.
A display at Willow Tree Primitives. Photos by D. Coffey.

Small business owner Alan Parsons stood behind the jewelry counter at the Trink-et Shoppe in downtown Danielson on Sunday, Nov. 25. On the counter was an Alex and Ani bracelet, one of the hottest items selling in his shop this season. He'd gotten an order of 250 of the bracelets on Tuesday, and by Saturday, 225 of them were gone. More than 70 people are on a waiting list for the items.
“They're made of recycled materials. They're made in Rhode Island. And they are the hottest thing going,” Parsons said.

Parsons said business was up over last year's big post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend. “It worked out good for us,” he said. Whether it was due to Small Business Saturday, he wasn't sure. “My customers didn't make any comments about it,” he said. “Last year my customers came in because of it.”

Initiated by American Express three years ago, the Small Business Saturday campaign has filled in the space between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and its focus is on small, local businesses. According to the American Express website, more than 500,000 small businesses in the U.S. participated this year. And ABC News reported that President Obama spent time Saturday shopping at small businesses in the Washington, D.C., area.

Stores along Main Street in Danielson sported sale signs and special promotions. “Support your local stores. Shop Main Street,” read a sign in the window of the Daily Grind. But while the campaign has certainly helped many small businesses, all of them have to constantly find ways to compete for a limited number of dollars in a recession-weary economy.

“We’ve been diversified for 42 years,” said Parsons. “We cater to different ages, groups and lifestyles.” The shop carries bridal and formal wear, scrubs for medical professionals, “Life is Good” merchandise, and Dansko shoes. “We try to offer products that are different from the big stores,” he added. This year, his worries about sales being affected by the recent arrival of Kohl’s in Dayville were not realized. Still, he has to contend with the sales promotions being offered everywhere.

Black Friday sales are moving into Thanksgiving Thursdays with midnight openings - a development Parsons isn’t happy with at all. He has opened early on Black Fridays, which was not as early as some 4 a.m. openings, but early enough to catch the overflow from those early sales. “That was successful for us,” he said.

More and more it’s the niche small businesses fill, the personal service they provide, and the unique products they offer that keep customers returning. Mark Goldberg of Danielson Surplus says it’s the custom screen-printing and embroidery, American-made clothing and footwear, and the jackets, hats and athletic wear emblazoned with area schools’ colors that bring in a large portion of customers. The Carhartt work clothes bring in construction workers, loggers from Rhode Island and area farmers. They carry more than 35 varieties of Chippewa work boots. Scouting clothes are sold upstairs. “We have our niche,” said Goldberg. “That’s why we retain our customers. We’re keeping up with sales. People are getting it into their minds that Saturday is a day to shop local. We want people to shop local every day.”

Ruth Richardson, owner of Hearth and Home in Danielson, said Saturday was a great day for business. “My regular customers came in and told me they were shopping local. I appreciated that.”  Richardson’s 6,000-square-foot shop carries a large line of Vera Bradley purses, umbrellas, wallets, paper products and travel accessories. This year they even carry VB Christmas ornaments. It’s a big line and a big seller for the Main Street business. She also carries country décor items, statues, window treatments and Christmas decorations. One room is devoted to Yankee Candle products. “It’s a good gift,” Richardson said. “We’ve sold them for 22 years.”

Melanie Lamparelli, owner of Willow Tree Primitives, said this year was the first time she noticed an increase in Small Business Saturday sales. The shop is six rooms full of all things primitive, from wooden and upholstered furniture to soy candles. Much of the inventory is made by Lamparelli and Gloria Nichols. “The less stuff we have from China, the better,” Nichols said.

Susan Patterson visited the store on Sunday. “They have a wonderful selection of primitives,” she said. “I come often. I try as much as possible to shop local.”


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