A growing shift toward keeping shopping dollars local made this year’s Small Business Saturday sales anything but small.
Shops in downtowns like Glens Falls saw steady streams of people, and The Shirt Factory, in the second day of its 12th annual Open House, which continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., was swamped.
Like a brick vertical sprawling indoor mall, most of The Shirt Factory’s more than 80 tenants opened their galleries, offices and stores, plus the hallways were lined with nearly 40 guest artisans — a record for the event.
Small Business Saturday was launched by American Express in 2010. Now it has grown to become a nationwide movement when consumers look for the unique treasures and customer service often found at locally-owned businesses.
“It’s been extremely busy. We’re doing a day’s worth of business every hour,” said SensibiliTeas owner Donnalyn Milford on the first floor of The Shirt Factory. “This (Open House) is a pretty well-known event, and it’s gotten so big we do another one two weeks later (10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 14 and 15). I think people are trying to buy local a little more.”
Bill and Shannon Duell, who own Adirondack Quilts, which sells quilting supplies and equipment, and Adirondack Quilts Too, a consignment gallery and classroom, also said people are more conscious about buying local.
“We’ve had people walking in and out all day,” Shannon said. “(Yesterday) was our best Black Friday sales ever.”
In downtown Glens Falls, MinkyMink, the women’s clothing boutique on Ridge Street, had its “Crack a Cookie” sale Friday and Saturday. When customers came to the register, they were given a fortune cookie. The slip inside revealed a surprise discount of 10 to 40 percent off.
“It’s just fun because you don’t know what to expect, but you’re guaranteed at least 10 percent off,” said owner Shonna McTiernan.
McTiernan said business was steady Black Friday, too. Interestingly, the purchases Friday seemed larger than Saturday, but Saturday brought more foot traffic into the store, she said.
Service-based businesses also offered specials, like Mindful Massage at The Lemon Tree in The Shirt Factory.
Mindy Ryzuk is offering half-off hot stone massage with aromatherapy, normally $85, for the Open House, while The Lemon Tree Yoga and Healing Arts Studio, owned by mother and daughter Tobey and Missy Gifford, is offering five yoga classes for $45.
“I feel it’s definitely bigger than last year’s (open house),” Ryzuk said.
Elaine Heckman is from Loudonville, but she has made Small Business Saturday in Warren County a tradition with her friend, Nancy White, from Queensbury, for two years.
“Glens Falls and Lake George are very close to my heart, and I figured if I was going to go out for Small Business Saturday, I’d contribute to this area. I just find it very welcoming,” Heckman said.
She and White last year spent the day in downtown Glens Falls. This was their first year at The Shirt Factory Open House.
White said the Open House appealed to the pair because it was a chance to see the tenants all open at once. Usually they don’t keep the same hours.
It’s an opportunity, “not just for Christmas, but all year-round shopping. We wanted to take advantage of this,” White said.
The pair also always make sure they eat at local restaurants during their shopping trip.
At Dickinson’s Delights, a cafe and bakery on the first floor, Jon and Tamberlyn Dickinson were busy all day feeding hungry shoppers.
“It was great,” Tamberlyn said. She said the cafe needed four people working to keep up with demand all day.
Another shopper, Cate Jenkins, of South Glens Falls said she has been attending the open house for five years.
“I like to be able to talk to the people I’m buying from as opposed to at a bigger store,” Jenkins said after she bought a pair of California white sage smudge wands, 2 for $8, from Gretchen Morganstern who owns Adirondack Aromatherapy with her husband, Thomas Morganstern. They opened their shop on the first floor in Feburary.
The smudge wands are burned to ward of negative energy and bad smells.
On Glen Street, gift boutique Downtown Charm offered refreshments and raffles and brought in three artists from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., including Heather DiFiore of Hillside Handmades, who handstamped sterling silver jewelry, Mary Alice Barnaby of Little Zebras Boutique, who made bubble-burlap wreaths and Rodney Bentley, who set up a station at the store to draw Christmas cards and prints in charcoal.
“There’s definitely a lot more people coming for locally-made items,” said Dyan Holt who works at Downtown Charm.
Achenbach’s Jewelers also was busy Saturday, said owner Judy Pontiff. The store is still in the process of renovating after water damage following the fire at the Bullpen Tavern over the summer.
“Saturday was busier (than Black Friday),” Pontiff said. “We’re rounding the corner (on renovations) and we have an excellent customer base, and our staff is in that same category.”
The Shirt Factory co-directors Kate Auston-Avon and Dolores Thomson both said in the days leading up to the Open House, they’ve seen the event grow considerably, and Black Friday full-day hours were officially added to the event last year.
“In our open houses and special events, you’ll see the whole building come to life,” Austin-Avon said. “It’s exciting. It’ll take you all weekend to see everything.”