Sharon Showcases Small Business Saturday
By George Nelson
SHARON, Pa. — Courtney Davis, sales manager at Hampton Inn and Suites in West Middlesex, Pa., is in her third year participating in the combined annual observation of Small Business Saturday and the kickoff of the holiday season in Sharon.
Laura Ackley, who headed up the event in past years, asked for volunteers, and Davis says she fell in love with the event. Last year, she got more involved and this year Ackley asked her to serve as chairwoman.
The Holiday Extravaganza in Sharon takes place Nov. 30 and will offer a few changes from past celebrations.
Big Dog RC in Sandy Lake will set up a “try me” track for radio-controlled vehicles, the Sharon Historical Society will do presentations and Emerald Tablet will conduct a drum circle as part of the main stage performances.
Also, the Shenango Valley Chorale returns to carol throughout the downtown. There will be selfies with Santa Claus and the event concludes with fireworks.
The Holiday Extravaganza serves as a showcase for downtown-based small businesses, many of which will offer giveaways or special sales on their merchandise.
“This is what our downtown thrives on,” Davis says. “We don’t have the big name-brand stores in our downtown. We have local shops here and we need to keep them going.”
The program on Nov. 30 kicks off at 10 a.m. with a ribbon cutting at a new downtown business, Gifted at Applegate. The boutique gift shop offers an array of items that include jewelry, bath and body products, home décor, pet toys, gifts for men and even repurposed pieces, says owner Jen Krezeczowski, who also operates Lulu Beans Café & Coffee House.
“A lot of what we’re doing is trying to create a more walkable downtown,” with places where patrons can grab a cup of coffee, buy a gift, get something to eat or even get their hair cut in the nearby barber shop, Krezeczowski says.
Small Business Saturday: Sharon, Pa.
Gifted at Applegate tries to source as many items as possible from independent artisans. “It’s important to support the artists and artisans who are making things,” Krezeczowski says.
The downtown offers a mix of independent retailers that range from newer venues like Gifted to landmarks that have been downtown for decades.
Reyers Shoe Store is in its 134th year of business, notes Steven Jubelirer, vice president. The Sharon institution offers shoes, handbags, jewelry and orthotic footwear.
“When you shop on the internet, that money is going out of town,” Jubelirer says. “When you shop locally here, that has a direct impact on the community. All those dollars are spent with our community and locally.”
The Winner, a women’s clothing store that has been in business three decades, experiences “quite a bit of traffic” on Small Business Saturday, store manager Amanda Cowan reports. People come to shop for holiday gifts and special-occasion dresses because of the selection the store offers.
Like her fellow downtown merchants, she emphasizes the importance of shopping locally.
“It is important to get the experience of a store like ours,” Cowan says. “You get that great customer service, as well as you can see the quality and fit of the product you are getting. We have sales consultants that help you find what you are looking for.”
During the Nov. 30 holiday celebration, Infinite Consortium Gaming will highlight some of its game lines along with “different collectibles and trinkets from those fandoms,” owner Tom Vaughn says.
The store, which opened six years ago, deals in role-playing and card games and supplies, along with other games and related merchandise.
“Pokemon and Magic: the Gathering are our main focus,” Vaughn says. “The trading-card games have exploded in popularity the past few years.”
Money spent at Infinite Consortium Gaming goes back into the community, he says. “When we have a good month, we invest in a new product line, we get new tables and chairs or we have events that benefit our customers. We hold charity events that benefit local organizations.”
The owner and manager of Emerald Tablet, Odin Smith, opened his shop four years ago, starting with a table at WaterFire Sharon.
The shop offers herbs and herbal products, as well as loose-leaf teas, balms and salves, crystals, gems, clothing and handmade products. Smith handcrafts many of the jewelry items that are sold.
“We wanted to create a place where people could be introduced to new ideas, new health products and a natural way of life, get away from the mass-produced kind of stuff,” Smith says.
Even with the growth of internet sales, some of the local businesses have either gotten out of that marketplace or not entered it.
Reyers no longer sells its products online, although it does have a website that provides information for customers, Jubelirer says. It got out of online sales about 18 months ago. “We were just lost in the myriad of millions of millions of websites all selling shoes,” he says.
The same is true at The Winner, Cowan says. It will ship merchandise to customers who visited and saw something they wanted but didn’t buy at the time, or those who see an item on the store website and call the store.
“The competition that comes with online sales is so great that in order to compete we would need to have more staff and storage,” Vaughn says. “The margins are too small on the scale of business we have now.”
Because Thanksgiving falls so closely to the end of the month, the holiday shopping season is nearly a week shorter. Any concern that creates is minor, merchants say.
“Four weekends between the holidays does make a difference,” Reyers’ Jubelirer says. “Saturdays always are the best day for sales. And if we get one fewer, it matters. We still expect December to be very meaningful.”
Some product lines such as board games and puzzles get a bump during the holiday shopping season, but Infinite Consortium’s customer base supports it year-round, Vaughn says. “We are not concerned about the shorter holiday season,” he says.
At The Winner, the holiday season remains “very important to us,” Cowan says.
The store gets busy right after Christmas, from the holidays though the beginning of May for prom season. “So the annual sales of the holiday are a smaller portion of our annual sales volume,” she says.
Davis recognizes the value of shopping locally. “It means a lot more when you come down to a local shop, someone’s put their heart and soul into creating something. And you can actually give that gift to a loved one or family member during the Christmas season,” she says. “It just makes it a little bit more special.”
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.