Local businesses encourage residents to shop small this Saturday

Patti Murphy, owner of Salt in Mystic, staffs her counter Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. The shop specializes in work by local artists and artisans. 'Saturday is a good day for us,' Murphy says of the tradition of Small Business Saturday.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Patti Murphy, owner of Salt in Mystic, staffs her counter Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. The shop specializes in work by local artists and artisans. "Saturday is a good day for us," Murphy says of the tradition of Small Business Saturday. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

While some small business owners lament how millennials prefer the convenience of browsing online to shopping local, Tumbleweeds owner Tara Wyatt has found that her record store is doing well with the 20- and 30-something market.

She feels they're realizing it's nice to be able to have tangible music, and that it has a different sound. Wyatt doesn't even try to compete with the digital world, and she does her research to make sure her products aren't easily found elsewhere.

The record store and fair trade boutique has been around since 1974, and she said Tumbleweeds wouldn't have been around that long if it didn't have a following.

"I think Niantic's community is one that really promotes shopping small and shopping local and know your neighbors," Wyatt said.

The biggest day of the year to do that is Small Business Saturday, a post-Black Friday holiday that has only been observed since 2010 but has gathered steam with activist hashtags and eye-catching tote bags.

Shopping local is just one enticement of Niantic Main Street's 14th Annual Holiday Stroll. The event, taking place from 3 to 7 p.m., will include free horse-drawn carriage rides, a chili cook-off, a s'mores station, visits with Santa, caroling and more.

The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut has been dropping into local businesses, such as Dress Boutique of Mystic and Island Pursuit, to hand out its free #SmallBizSat promotional toolkit. This includes customizable fliers, posters, coupons and signs.

The Mystic gift shop Salt has updated its Facebook cover photo with a customizable Small Business Saturday graphic, and it is advertising "sips + sweets," giveaways and discounts for the day.

The Chamber also compiled a list on its website of discounts that local businesses are offering on Saturday. For example, Fiddleheads Food Co-op in New London is offering 10 percent off purchases over $25, Flavours of Life is giving a free ornament with every purchase, and artificial Christmas trees are 25 percent off at Holdridge Home & Garden Showplace.

The Bowerbird in Old Lyme is having multiple promotions, including a $10 coupon with a $75 purchase, 20 percent off Alex & Ani, a Crabtree & Evelyn giveaway with purchase and buy-one-get-one-free Snoozies slippers.

Across the region, shoppers are encouraged to share a photo of themselves shopping or dining local on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #ShopSmallCT between Nov. 24 and 26. One person will receive a $100 Visa gift card, courtesy of Dime Bank.

"When small businesses do well, everybody succeeds," Chamber President Tony Sheridan said in a news release. "The dollars spent with small businesses remain local in our communities and provide good jobs for our residents, and provide necessary funding for our fire and police departments, parks, and municipal resources."

New London Main Street also is promoting Small Business Saturday, including the Art=Gift show at Hygienic Art and the Nonprofit Marketplace at the Custom House Maritime Museum.

In Olde Mistick Village, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos from noon to 3 p.m. in the Meeting House, and some stores will have their own giveaways and discounts.

"It helps keep the revenue and tax dollars in our state, versus going to a national (business), which could be home-based in other areas, and those profits are going to different areas," Chris Regan, property manager of Olde Mistick Village, said of Small Business Saturday. "It helps our small business owners to be able to afford houses locally, pay taxes locally."

On Holmes Street, Mystic Supply Co. is celebrating its first Small Business Saturday since opening with hot apple cider and doughnuts from B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill, a pop-up shop showcasing Sheila Chen art, and an in-store raffle with a $50 gift card as a prize.

In recent months, Lisa and Peter Marcus, owners of Lee's Toy and Hobby in Groton, have become frustrated that people mourning the loss of Benny's suggest they'll now have to shop at Walmart, instead of considering a small business as an alternative.

The couple finds that around the holidays, people will come in and be delighted to find something they couldn't find in a big-box store. They wish those customers would just come to Lee's Toy and Hobby in the first place.

Both the Marcuses and Shaylynn Jameson, co-owner of Thistle Beads in Niantic, said a common misconception is that small businesses tend to have higher prices.

To combat challenges from online shopping, Thistle Beads tries "to add a little bit more of a personal touch, where we're always here to help people with their projects," Jameson said. "We do a lot of classes and different things."

At Amapola's Tea & More in Stonington, Amapola O'Brien tries to "have unique things you can't find on the Internet."

Her best months of the year are when tourists are in town, and O'Brien said she doesn't have a lot of local business support from people living in Stonington Borough.

e.moser@theday.com

Jim Verni, owner of Tidal River Clothing Company, as well as Trove Men's Provisions, both on West Main Street in Mystic, hangs garland on the facade of Tidal River in preparation for the holiday shopping season Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Jim Verni, owner of Tidal River Clothing Company, as well as Trove Men's Provisions, both on West Main Street in Mystic, hangs garland on the facade of Tidal River in preparation for the holiday shopping season Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Merchants across the region, including at Salt in Mystic, are urging people to 'shop local.'  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Merchants across the region, including at Salt in Mystic, are urging people to "shop local." (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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