Downtown Sharon

Communities, Companies Prepare for Small Business Saturday

SHARON, Pa. – Courtney Cilli, downtown events coordinator for this city, views Small Business Saturday as one of the most important days of the year.

Cilli was suspended in a man basket above the city’s holiday tree on the East State Street bridge Tuesday morning, hanging decorations in preparation for the celebration that coincides with Small Business Saturday, the national campaign to support locally owned small businesses.

Such businesses are “what keeps the downtown running. So the more that we can support them, the more our downtown will thrive,” she said.

Since the first Small Business Saturday was marked in 2010, consumers have spent an estimated $163 billion at small businesses on that day, according to Marianne Rausch, vice president of Small Business Saturday and Shop Small at American Express.

“From our Shop Small Impact Study this year, 53% of consumers say they plan to Shop Small on Small Business Saturday,” Rausch said. “And half of small business owners anticipate Small Business Saturday will make a significant contribution to their overall holiday sales this year.”

Small Business Saturday in Sharon – one of several area communities marking the event — will feature a variety of events and specials, including a pop-up shop in the former Army-Navy building on East State Street, new business grand openings, existing businesses introducing new offerings and in-store promotions and activities.

The day’s activities will kick off with a mascot ribbon cutting at 9 a.m. at the Sharon roundabout coordinated by the Gannon Small Business Development Center. The traditional tree lighting will take place at 5 p.m., followed by Santa Claus’s arrival on a fire truck. Live entertainment will be featured during the day and into the evening as well.  

“It’s not just the city doing events,” said Sherris Moreira, downtown development director. “It’s the businesses themselves. They are really going to town on this.”

For sure, the businesses are happy that this year’s event is bigger than the last few years, when the pandemic curtailed large-scale events.

“The more attention we bring, the better they’ll do,” Cilli remarked.  “Hopefully we’ll draw a big crowd and businesses will do well, because that’s what we’re really trying to do – highlight the businesses and make sure that they have a great day.”

Downtown merchants are offering various activities and promotions. Infinite Consortium Gaming Hobbies and Games will host a paint-and-take class, allowing patrons to purchase and paint figures for role-playing games. Gifted at Applegate will debut its new tea bar. The Winner is offering a free veil with the purchase of a bridal gown. Daffin’s Candies will provide candy bars for kids.

The Wandering Soul: Books, Gifts & Furniture on East State Street will hold its grand opening Saturday. The new retailer is one of the businesses that received a $20,000 new business development grant funded from the city’s American Rescue Plan allocation.  

The shop will feature gifts made by local artisans, handmade clothing, furniture, paintings and works by local authors, owner Dani Johnson said. She had planned to open sooner but realized this weekend would be good because the community would be out supporting local business owners.

“It’s so important to support your local businesses because there’s love behind [the business]. There’s a story behind it,” she said.

Sharon City Eyeworks, a new division of EOF Optical LP that received a $55,000 ARP grant, is offering 50% off of all its sunglasses Saturday as well as free eye exams. Sunglasses are a great gift and an item – especially high-end ones — that people generally don’t buy for themselves, said Jim Schneider, EOF co-founder and president.

Sara McCauley of Berkshire Hathaway and Amy and Jim Schneider of Sharon City Eyeworks.

The pop-up shop takes place at the old Amry-Navy building, which is owned by Michael Lisac, president of Warehouse Sales. Local artisans as well as businesses with storefronts will have space in the marketplace.  

 “We don’t have a ton of retail [downtown]but we have a lot of really cool, unique retail,” Moreira said. “Having this pop-up, which also supports some of our entrepreneurial artisans, helps bring more traffic to downtown.”

Events Elsewhere

Woodland Cellars, a Hubbard business that makes wine, mead and cider, will host local vendors Saturday and participate in a separate event at Extending Grace, a nearby home décor shop, owner Dani Wilson said.  

“Not only are we a small business but we like to support small business as well,” Wilson said.

When people buy something from Woodland Cellars, they are getting something that is personally made – produced, bottled, labeled and corked by hand, Wilson said.

“We’re pouring ourselves into these products. So it’s something we all really believe in and we’re very passionate about. It’s a higher quality because we get to see everything that’s going out,” she said.

Virginia Molnar of Molnar Farms in Poland echoed the importance of supporting small businesses. Molnar Farms will again host Christmas on the Farm, a craft and gift market featuring more than 20 local vendors, Saturday. The East Western Reserve Road farm paused the event the past two years because of the pandemic. 

“It’s a nice way to end the season. It’s our last day open for the season at the market. So we did it to kick off the holidays,” she said.

The event also is “a nice way to highlight the talent that’s in our community” and support other small businesses by bringing people in to support them, she added.  

“We’ve got a lot of talent out there,” Molnar said. “Everybody wins in this in this scenario.”

This weekend will be the second and final weekend for FaLaLa at the Ward, which is being held at the Ward Bakery Building on Mahoning Avenue in Youngstown. This is the 20th year for the event, which has been held under different names, said Robyn Maas, a local artist who is serving as media coordinator for the event, said. Last weekend, the event drew about 500 people, though many of them were just looking.

“We always do better the second weekend,” Maas said. “After Thanksgiving, people are ready to shop.” 

Offerings by the participating vendors range from handmade items and pieces made from nontraditional materials to pottery and sculptures.

“Everything’s unique. It’s not like you can go to the store and get the stuff that we offer,’” she said.

Maas also emphasized the importance of buying from local artists to keep the art community growing locally. “We need to support the local artists or they’re just going to go to bigger cities and vacation spots where people like to go on vacation and buy artwork,” she said.

The Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce will host its first Shop & Skate at the Square, with free ice skating in the Columbiana County Courthouse parking lot from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Downtown businesses will offer various specials, and vendors will be set inside and outside some of the storefronts, said Lindsey Smoot, chamber executive director. In addition, several food trucks will be set up by the skating rink.

“We want to encourage people to visit our local shops and businesses in downtown Lisbon,” Smoot said. “We also want to provide something for families to do. A lot of people are driving to Boardman, Youngstown and Pittsburgh for ice skating. We thought it would be nice to have ice skating here in the village and make it free.”

Lacking a “walkable downtown area,” the city of Hermitage is approaching Small Business Saturday as a social media campaign, said Jessica Gotch, director of recreation and community events. “We thought that initiating something on Facebook or Instagram would be a good way to support all of our local businesses that want to be a part of the events,” she said.

Since October, the city has promoted specials or promotions offered by businesses in the city, some of which donated prizes to be given away on Small Business Saturday. Shoppers visiting participating businesses are invited to shoot and post a selfie on the city’s Facebook page with the hashtag #SHOPHermitagePA22, making them eligible for prizes.

As of Tuesday, 37 businesses were participating in the promotion and more than half contributed to the prize giveaways, she reported.

“The idea was to have just one single big prize for someone to win but we had such a great turnout from the local businesses that we broke them up into a couple different categories,” Gotch said.

TikTok Shoppers

This year, small businesses can access the #ShopSmall Accelerator, a new program offering best practices and resources to help small businesses reach the next generation of shoppers on TikTok on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday season.

“Social media has always been core to Small Business Saturday, said American Express’s Rausch. “As social platforms and consumer habits continue to evolve, we want to make sure small businesses feel equipped to evolve with them and that we help them stand out on those platforms.”

The initiative includes an offer for U.S. small businesses who are new TikTok advertisers that enroll by Dec. 24 to earn a $100 TikTok advertising credit after purchasing $50 or more in TikTok ads.

The American Express Shop Small Impact Study found that 72% of small business owners are concerned about the impact of inflation on their business this year.

“The mission of Small Business Saturday has never been more vital — to continue to support small businesses and rally consumers to celebrate the small businesses they love during the holiday season and beyond,” Rausch said.

“And consumers can make a powerful impact to keep their communities thriving. Our Small Business Economic Impact Study found that every time shoppers spend $1 at a local small business, $0.68 of that dollar stays in the community.”

Pictured at top: Courtney Cilli and Mike Lisac prepare the Christmas Tree in downtown Sharon.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.