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Welcome mats out for Small Business Saturday

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Think Auburn First is now not the only campaign to encourage shopping locally. Now there’s Small Business Saturday, a nationwide effort to bring customers to family-owned stores, eateries and services on Nov. 26. In its second year, the American Express-sponsored program is getting support from numerous organizations as well as an extensive TV ad campaign. But in Auburn, not many seemed to be aware of it or know much about it this week, even though 107 community businesses are signed up on the Facebook Small Business Saturday listing. At Auburn Reptile Company in Downtown, owner Shawn Thomas was surprised to hear his store was on the list, although he supports the premise. “We’ll be running sales all week,” he said. “Reptiles are a popular gift. People can come in and get their equipment and buy their animals. We can hold on to the reptiles until they pick them up for Christmas.” Bearded dragons and leopard geckos are the favorites. “They are easy to take care of,” he said. “Bearded dragons are the No. 1 reptile for kids. … We’re big on education and promoting kids getting engaged with the animal.” In Old Town, Linda Robinson, owner of Sun River Clothing Company and president of the Old Town Business Association, said she hasn’t heard any buzz about Small Business Saturday. “We are going to start doing extended hours after Thanksgiving,” she said. “I have 27 merchants who have committed to stay open to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. I guess that would be our buzz. Half of those (who responded) are staying open on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. All of them are staying open Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m. through December. Personally, I’m thrilled about it.” For Robinson, it’s about taking a creative approach. “We have to show our visitors we’re going to stay open for them to have a great shopping experience,” she said. “…Old Town is a special place and we have a great mix of retail. We’re ready for the holiday sales and Country Christmas and good weather and all the good things the holidays can bring.” At Avantgarden on High Street, owner Kim Wright registered her store on Facebook in support of Small Business Saturday but said she hadn’t focused much on it since then. But she does think it is a great idea and looks forward to welcoming shoppers this weekend. “I’ll probably put out an e-mail,” she said. “We usually have a Christmas open house. It will be the first Saturday of December.” She plans to maintain regular store hours Saturday, closing at 5 p.m. But nearer to the Christmas holiday, she’ll stay open later on Wednesday nights. “I’ll wait until the traffic gets high,” Wright said. On Lincoln Way, Mickey’s Boots store manager Samantha Brown said she is aware of Small Business Saturday and it is traditionally a big weekend for the store. “Families are in town and want to shop and walk around,” she said. Mickey’s Boots will be open regular hours — closing at 5 p.m. Saturday and open until 4 p.m. Sunday. To encourage participation, American Express is giving a $25 statement credit to 100,000 card members who register their card and use it to shop on Small Business Saturday at any locally owned, independent small businesses that accept American Express. The company is also giving $100 of free Facebook advertising to 10,000 business owners who sign up at facebook.com/smallbusiness. The Small Business Administration has signaled its support, too. “Small businesses are the foundation of our economy — half of America’s workers either own or work for a small business,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said in a press release. “Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to show our support for our friends and neighbors who throughout the year are growing our local economy, as well as supporting many local initiatives and organizations.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ------------ Small Business Saturday Visit facebook.com/smallbusiness