Beyond Small Business Saturday: how shopping local helps North East

The Bean's baristas, Jenna Bailey and Carlye Zahner, serve warm beverages to customers on Small Business Saturday at 12 S. Lake St.

The Christmas season is marked by several highly sought after shopping days, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Founded by American Express in 2010, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving has been named Small Business Saturday and is a day for shoppers to invest in their community by shopping locally.  

“I am so thankful that the town embraces events like Small Business Saturday,” said Tamara Walters, owner of The Bean, located at 12 S. Lake St. “We were busy from opening to close and we couldn’t have asked for a better day of business.”

Walters is one of several North East business owners who saw the impact of the community joining together to support each other.

“I have several vendors throughout Erie County and shopping locally not only helps the North East economy, but it all goes back into the county’s economy as well,” said Ruby McCormick, owner of Ruby’s Olde Time Antiques and Gifts at 14 S. Lake St. “I always encourage customers to support the Erie economy because we really need it.”

Small Business Saturday isn’t the only time to get out and shop local. 

“The holiday season is when shoppers are out in full force and we ramp up our staff and inventory to reflect that,” Walters said. “Our goal as business owners is not only to bring people in during the holidays but to inspire a habit for customers to come back throughout the year, not just for one day. We want to make sure shopping small becomes a habit.” 

The North East Area Chamber of Commerce strives to help local businesses through tourism, community involvement and events, and by supporting businesses through education, discount services and grants. 

Not only was the Chamber named a Neighborhood Champion to bring the community together on Small Business Saturday, they work throughout the year to make sure businesses are thriving in the area with events like North East Uncorked, First Fridays, Picnic in the Park and Wine Fest.

“It is important to not only bring new tourism in to North East, but to bring locals out to enjoy what great things this town has to offer,” said Amy Vercant, executive director of the Chamber. “The impact multiplies and you could really see people embracing what North East has to offer on Small Business Saturday.” 

The impact really does multiply, according to Walters. 

“When customers shop at The Bean, they are allowing me to purchase dance classes for my daughter,” Walters said. “On Saturday, my daughter’s dance instructor at Dance Vibe Studio invited The Bean’s Mobile Coffee Bus to the West Erie Plaza to serve coffee. Next door to the studio are two businesses, the Candle Box and Erie Apparel, where I was able to purchase gifts and T-shirts for my employees. When you shop local, you see your money go full circle.”

The Chamber’s annual Sugar Plum Weekend will take place on Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Dec. 3, from 12:30 to 5 p.m., which is another opportunity to explore and support local businesses in the area, many of whom will have specials throughout the weekend. 

The First Baptist Church, 43 S. Lake St., will host the Sugar Plum Marketplace that will feature over 20 vendors. 

The Chamber will offer coupon books with deals for dozens of local businesses at their office at 44 W. Main St. 

The event will also feature horse drawn sleigh rides; Santa and Mrs. Claus and a few of their reindeer will be available to meet on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. near Gibson Park.

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