After the Black Friday buzz died down, local shops across the county opened their doors for Small Business Saturday.
With the holiday season in near sight, small businesses worked to entice consumers from big box stores and into small, local ones.
Like most sales across the nation, many shops offered good deals and discounts on holiday must-haves. In downtown Loudon, small shops banded together to not only produce discounts, but to welcome more foot traffic with the help of a scavenger hunt.
The hunt was broken down into two objectives, with one focusing on finding a small sign within each shop showcasing the name of a holiday song. The second objective asked consumers about various details about the downtown Loudon area, such as, “Is there a Mustang convertible in the window at Kellan Premium Auto Detailing & Sales?” Completing the scavenger hunt allowed a name to be put in a drawing for a $250 grand prize.
Serendipity Boutique owner Karen Lantry believes the events can have a lasting effect on downtown stores.
“We’re trying to get together now once a month, the new business association, and find creative ways to get people downtown,” Lantry said. “I think we need some more restaurants. That’s a big key. We’ve got a new barbecue place that’s supposed to be opening, and then they’re working on the train station. That’s supposed to be a steak restaurant at some point in time. That would be good. Restaurants bring people in, and they see that there’s other shops and stuff.
“It makes people aware that there are a lot of independent retailers down here, and without their support, we won’t exist, definitely,” she added. “Trying to make people aware of Small Business Saturday through American Express — that’s the one that’s really pushing it — they’re really helping us because if we don’t get the traffic down here, we might as well just lock the door.”
Lantry, who opened her boutique in September, believes shopping locally positively impacts communities.
“Every dollar that’s spent in the community, when it’s spent in the community and not online, 67 cents goes really to the area,” she said. “You don’t realize how important it is for people to shop our little businesses rather than going online because eventually there won’t be any places to go.”
Small Business Saturday is a gateway to assemble a strong downtown community.
“When you spend dollars locally in small shops, you are putting money back into your community,” Bridgit Lawson, Personal Space Creations owner, said. “Small shop mom-and-pop owners are slowly dying off. For people like us, this pays our rent. This pays our light bill. You go to a big box store, and yes, you’re paying for the employees, but you’re not paying the actual person. Here, that’s really important. We’re working on bringing back historic downtown Loudon so that it’s a community again.”
Lawson, who originally ran her small business out of a kiosk on an Alaskan military base, said she has felt the impact of being part of a close-knit community through being a business owner.
“We used to do shop small in our kiosk in the food court on the military base and had a blast,” she said. “We had so many people come and instead of going to the exchange with their jewelry, they’d come see us and get their jewelry from us because they knew they were helping us pay our bills. They were supporting us. It became more of a community and a bunch of friends just supporting each other in any way they could.”
Since moving to Loudon, Lawson opened her business in August and has found partnering with others an asset in keeping her doors open.
“With Serendipity, Nurture by Nature and us, I think we’re the three shops that are new this year, and most small business fail within their first year, so we’re all trying to rally together and support each other so we’re not that statistic,” Lawson said. “That’s basically what this whole thing is about. Helping each other out, supporting each other, helping us follow our dreams.”
Lawson also offered personal incentives at her store. When people posted a hashtag “Shop Small Loudon” with a photo of shopping at a downtown Loudon store, they were in the running for a $25 gift card.
Several Loudon stores are working collectively to organize more events to bring people to the area.
“We’re just now trying to bring back the Loudon Merchants and Property Owners Association,” Lawson said. “This is our first event to try to weld all of the merchants together from Loudon as whole. Basically, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to bring back all of Loudon and feeling that small town community.”