Locals prepare for Small Business Saturday, holiday shopping

By: Jessica Strachan | C&G Newspapers | Published November 14, 2012

 Wearing fingerless gloves, Cheryl Jones, manager of Catching Fireflies in downtown Rochester, holds a snowman serving plate, Santa nightlight and “snowman” soup.

Wearing fingerless gloves, Cheryl Jones, manager of Catching Fireflies in downtown Rochester, holds a snowman serving plate, Santa nightlight and “snowman” soup.

Photo by David Schreiber

Tips for the small business owner

Small Business Saturday is Nov. 24 and Patricia Norins, Small Business Saturday shopping expert, gives these tips for business owners to make the most of the occasion:

• Plan special events on the day. A visit from Santa, carolers and food-sampling stations are all great ideas. Staff your store accordingly.

• Create compelling offers. One way to do this is by offering a special or exclusive discount to customers, only for Small Business Saturday, as a way to increase store traffic.

• Post in-store signage. Download free Small Business Saturday marketing materials — including logos and signage from the Small Business Saturday Facebook page.

• Collaborate with other participating independent retailers in your community.

For more information, visit www.shopsmall.org.

OAKLAND COUNTY — Almost everyone has that special gift or two that they’ve received over the years that means the world to them.

For Beverly Hills resident and local business owner April McCrumb, it’s a custom-made painting by an independent artist that depicts her local shops, which sell trinkets and gifts. Her husband commissioned the piece for her as a Christmas gift one year.

McCrumb, who is the owner of Catching Fireflies in Rochester and Berkley, along with the Yellow Door Art Market in Berkley, said special gifts like that painting are the inspiration behind her shops.

And occasions like Small Business Saturday Nov. 24 remind her why their work is so special, she said.

“People come to us because we have things you can’t find anywhere else. When you gift a gift, you don’t want to give something you can find at a local big-box store,” McCrumb said. She has a team of 10 who make Catching Fireflies a personal experience for shoppers.

They offer cookies, hot cocoa and free gift wrapping to their shoppers, who stroll aisles filled with unique and handmade gifts,  surrounded by the sound of holiday music. On Small Business Saturday, each shopper will receive a small token of appreciation, too — “seeds of happiness” to express Catching Fireflies’ gratitude for patrons’ support.

“It’s all part of the experience; we try hard to create a nice environment. … Shopping for gifts should be fun; it shouldn’t be a chore,” McCrumb said.

Small Business Saturday is the day sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, dedicated to supporting small businesses in the community, and it comes just in time for the holiday gift-giving season.

Lola Are, director of the Oakland County Business Center, works with small businesses in the area to help them prosper and says that Small Business Saturday is a time for local businesses to shine, especially in areas with strong community support.

“There are cities like Birmingham and Rochester that have very engaged downtown areas. We definitely have a lot of those in Oakland County,” she said.

According to Are, supporting small businesses keeps money in the local economy but, overall, makes a better shopping experience.

“Business owners know their clients and help match what they are looking for. The value is the customer service and the attention the client gets,” she explained.

What makes that possible, she added, is a strong response and support system from the community.

In Birmingham, local businesses are what mark the shopping experience there year round, but for Small Business Saturday, local business owners often mark the day with special sales and promotions.

“The Birmingham Principal Shopping District supports Small Business Saturday and we encourage our patrons to shop locally whenever possible,” explained John Heiney, executive director of the district, in an email. “Birmingham has over 300 retailers, restaurants, salons and spas, many of which are independently-owned businesses, so it is easy to find what you are looking for in Birmingham.”

One of Birmingham’s newest shops, Salvation LLC. on Cole Street, has opened just in time for Small Business Saturday and the gift-giving season. James Green, owner and creator behind his brand James Christianman, designs Christian apparel and accessories for men and started developing the idea for his store seven years ago.

Green, a Detroit native, said his shop offers graphic t-shirts, men’s collared shirts, leather goods like belts and wallets, cross jewelry and even body-care products like cologne. With Christmas right around the corner, he said he’s anticipating a positive response from the community.

“Small businesses help the community prosper,” Green said. “It’s important to shop locally because the money stays here in the community.”

Shops in Farmington are also anticipating Small Business Saturday as a way to not just attract customers, but thank them.

Kristin Curle, events coordinator for the Farmington Downtown Development Authority, said that the annual “Wish List Window” promotion is bigger than ever.

Downtown merchants chipped in to donate more than $6,000 worth of goods, doubled from last year, which will go to 11 lucky downtown shoppers. Curle explained that, for every $100 spent downtown, shoppers get a punch card, and their name goes into a drawing for the chance to win the Wish List Window.

It’s filled with everything from massage coupons to restaurant gift cards and home products, he added.

“The hope is that people will come into the downtown area and spend their money at local small businesses rather than the chain stores or malls,” she explained. “This is really about giving back to the community and helping to foster small business.”

Downtown Farmington offers plenty of opportunities for unique gifts, she added, including local clothing and shoe stores for fashion-forward friends, Bead Bohemia for crafty loved ones, Sacred Sage for those with a spiritual or metaphysical side, and Victorian Lace for special trinkets.

Outside of Oakland County’s traditional downtown areas, shoppers can still find those special places reminiscent of “mom and pop” shops.

In Southfield, an area without a traditional downtown, there are plenty of places to discover around town, according to officials.

Tanya Markos-Vanno, director of the Southfield Chamber of Commerce, said that, while the city is known as a premiere business address, it’s also boutique-central for shoppers. She noted, particularly, Irresistible Boutique, Destination Style Boutique and Lisa’s Fabulous Finds — all fairly new stores to open around town.

“These small boutiques are great places to shop and spend time. The service you get from the folks is fantastic,” she said via email. “It is important to support these establishments so they can continue to give us the quality of service us consumers are looking for. These owners have spent a lot of time and money to open these stores.”

Markos-Vanno believes occasions like Small Business Saturday emphasize the benefit of shopping locally for both business owners and the community members.

“Small business is our backbone; we need them and they need us to support them,” she said.

The Rust Belt Market in Ferndale is another unique place to shop Mitten-made products to score unique holiday gifts. Owners Chris and Tiffany Best peg it as an “offline Esty” that brings together dozens of independent artisans and collectors to sell their work in one large space.

“When you think about shopping, please consider the Rust Belt over traditional retail, such as the mall or big-box stores. Your support not only keeps 100 percent of your money spent in the local economy, but it also helps fulfill the dream and goals of our artists as they operate both start-ups and sustaining small businesses,” the Rust Belt Market website says.

Shoppers at the weekend market can find everything from clothing to music, scents of candles and homemade soaps, to gourmet foods and drinks to give away for the holidays.