Tags Posts tagged with "Small Business Saturday"

Small Business Saturday

An inside look at Huntington Village's Little Switzerland Toy Store. Photo by Lina Weingarten

COVID-19 has impacted business globally, but for local mom-and-pop shops across Long Island, they have been hit twice as hard. 

Between the impact of online retailers, plus big box stores, the pandemic has made it even more difficult to make a sale for these smaller businesses.

When people shop small, the sales tax goes right back into the local economy. The community depends on these stores to make the village look great, while also supporting a neighbor. 

That’s why on Thanksgiving weekend, Small Business Saturday immediately followed the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with hopes to bring revenue into the smaller stores. 

All weekend long throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, local shop owners gleamed with hope that customers would continue their holiday shopping “small” and keeping these businesses afloat. 

Here’s what some small business owners had to say: 

Madison’s Niche employees at the Stony Brook store. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Madison’s Niche 

83 Main St., Stony Brook/14 Wall St., Huntington

Madison’s Niche, with four locations throughout Long Island, is a lifestyle boutique that sells everything from baby onesies to UGG boots to home décor.

At the Stony Brook Village Center store, director Carolynn Mertens said that they did “fantastic” this past holiday weekend.

“We’re up in sales,” she said. “We’re very grateful to be up, and we didn’t think it was going to happen, but we’re very lucky.”

From Friday to Sunday, Mertens said she saw dozens of people shopping with their holiday lists in hand, while a lot of people were even shopping for themselves.

“I think people want to support small businesses,” she said. “They don’t want to see any more empty stores in their community and are trying to keep our mom-and-pop stores alive.”

Compared to a big box store or the mall, Mertens believes that customers feel more comfortable shopping in her stores.

“Our stores are easy to shop in,” she said. “We can maintain social distancing and we are constantly disinfecting.”

Morolay Children’s Boutique is now open by appointment only. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Morolay Children’s Boutique 

302 New York Ave., Huntington 

This holiday season is looking a little different for Morolay Children’s Boutique on New York Avenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Under these unique circumstances, we’re fully by appointment,” said owner Leah Casabona. 

But that works in the customers favor, because it provides an even more one-on-one shopping experience for people looking to come in. 

“The customer service here is much better than big chain stores,” she said. “We personally deal with our customers and live in the community.”

For the past 21 years, Morolay has been a staple to the Huntington community, known for selling special occasion wear to local children. 

“If you support small business, that sales tax goes back into our own local community,” she said. “And, the uniqueness of Huntington makes it a desirable place to live.”

Casabona said that shopping small is the way to go this and every other year.

“We need to be more conscious to help small businesses now more than ever,” she said.

Lily Bergh stands behind the counter at Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls

267 Main St., Huntington

Lily Bergh, owner of Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls, said she has been in the business for more than 30 years. 

This holiday season, she’s reminding people that shopping in-store is part of the magic that is Christmas. 

“It was so nice seeing the kids with their big smiles this weekend,” she said. “They were making lists for Santa while walking around the store.”

Since opening in 1981, Bergh said that three generations now have been walking through her front door to buy presents during the holidays.

“The kids will come in with their grandmas and say with excitement, ‘Wow, a toy store!’”

And that reaction isn’t the same when a child walks through a toy aisle at a larger retailer.

“You’re just a number at a big box store,” she said. “And, I think it’s important to actually be able to pick up or touch a toy.” 

Bergh said that the last nine months have been hard for her and the business, but Saturday and Sunday had a great turnout. 

“It was awesome,” she said. “But we need more to make up for the four months we were closed. We want to stay in Huntington. It’s important.”

She said her toy store is a “wonderland” and strives to bring good memories to little ones visiting inside. She hopes that more people will continue to shop at her store, especially now. 

“I don’t care who you shop from, but you need to shop local,” she said.

TandyWear in Commack recently expanded. Photo by Rita Egan

TandyWear

89 Commack Road, Commack

TandyWear has been in business for over 20 years and owner Tandy Jeckel said shopping at her store is a safe and fun experience, especially during these unprecedented times.

“We’re on a first-name basis with our customers,” she said. “You’ll get a personalized experience — we have an amazing team, amazing stylists, we’ll find your style.”

Jeckel said that this past Saturday was the best Small Business Saturday they have ever had.  

“It was amazing,” she said. “We had so much foot traffic. It was great.”

Known for their dressy wear, comfy wear, going out wear and trendy wear, the store has something for everyone. 

“We get new styles daily, and we sell masks to match,” she said.

Throughout the holiday weekend, Jeckel said she offered doorbusters and 20% off the entire store.

Jeckel thinks people are gravitating toward the smaller shops because the big box stores are also competing with online retailers and are closing due to them. 

“The big box stores aren’t around anymore,” she said. “You have a few small chain stores, and then us.”

Lily Bergh stands behind the counter at Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Amazon is not going to go the extra mile and wrap your Christmas presents with professional flair. Amazon is not going to sponsor your local baseball or soccer team. Amazon does not know the names of customers’ family members or shops in the same supermarket that we do.

At the same time, Amazon is still raking in profits. The retail giant moved its annual Prime Day to October this year, essentially setting up an earlier holiday rush than usual. Amazon and other online retailers are anticipated to make $189 billion in revenue this season, up 33% from 2019. Meanwhile many of our local mom-and-pop brick and mortar remain without a hint of additional federal stimulus, praying they do well enough in the next few weeks to stay open in 2021. While Cyber Monday sales are expected to grow this year, American Express, which promotes Small Business Saturday, has reported that in a survey of owners 62% said they need to see spending return to pre-COVID levels to survive 2020.

Though that’s not to say the community isn’t getting involved. Many shop owners we spoke to praised their customers, the ones who have sought out their stores to see how they were doing, buy items or even gift cards.

Some owners managed to take some of their business online during the height of the pandemic in spring, but many did not have the resources  to go further. Over the year, we’ve talked to other small business owners who said the additional stresses caused by the pandemic were simply too much to bear and have already closed up shop.

Yet the beast only grows bigger and hungrier. Amazon is planning for a total of three last-mile warehouses on Long Island, with the latest one announced to be in Shirley.

In the Nov. 26 issue of TBR newspapers, we shared the very real and very legitimate concerns of local pharmacists over Amazon’s new pill delivery service, which is rolling out at the end of this year. Amazon won’t know patients’ family history. Amazon won’t be able to look at a person at their counter and tell if there may be something else wrong healthwise.

All the emphasis on staying at home has led to the ballooning of mail-in delivery services for everything from packages, to food and even alcohol. Some of these delivery businesses, like Door Dash have been a minor boon to brick and mortar who were not allowed to open their doors. Others, such as Amazon Pharmacy, have been taking away larger and larger slices of the economic pie. Will there be a time when your local pharmacy or corner store can no longer compete with a national brand? Maybe, but we’re not there quite yet.

All our local shops were impacted by the ongoing pandemic, and though some industries have managed to compete better than others, the tell-tale signs of anxiety are there in each one. As New York City and Long Island witness increases in COVID-19 infection rates, all eyes are on Albany to see if there will be more restrictions. Experts have already said trends are worrying and have suggested stricter measures.

In that way, we ask people to be considerate not only of business owners but also to your neighbors as well. It may be smart to call ahead before visiting a local shop for a Christmas gift, so as not to spend as much time indoors, potentially with strangers. It’s better to get shopping done early, especially to avoid any kind of gathering crowds on the horizon.

But we have to see the end of 2020, we all crave the end to 2020, but we do not want to see the end to small business on the North Shore and all of Long Island. This holiday season, let’s keep our local mom-and-pops in mind.

by -
0 578
Broadway in Rocky Point is just one small main street on Long Island hoping for customers this holiday season. Photo by Kyle Barr

It was a fall shopping season like no other.

One doesn’t have to think too far back to remember the crowds you could practically surf off of during the annual season of Black Friday sales. Not so much this year, as more people stayed home to avoid potentially catching or spreading COVID-19. 

Online sales, however, have jumped tremendously. Amazon’s Prime Day started early in October, and Forbes has reported that original projections for the weekend before Cyber Monday indicated increases of online purchases compared to 2019 from 36 to 50%. Amazon has already said this year’s holiday shopping season has been the biggest in its history, contending that medium to small businesses that sell on Amazon have seen record numbers.

Meanwhile, as much as small brick-and-mortar businesses have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, we will still have to wait and see how well they did on Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday promoted by American Express.

Experts, from as close as the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook University have expressed fear for these small shops, with expectations that close to half of businesses like restaurants could be closed by 2021. 

Alignable, a Boston-based online business referral network, reported Dec. 1 based on a poll of 9,204 small business owners that 48% fear they will not earn enough revenue this month to keep their businesses afloat. 

Main streets all over Long Island have experienced their share of woe, and while some retail owners say times remain tough, others expressed their thanks to customers who went out of their way to patronize their local mom-and-pop.

Feasts for Beasts owner Alan Ghidaleson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Feasts For Beasts

45 Route 25A, Mount Sinai

The pet store and groomer in the small outlet along Route 25A in Mount Sinai normally does not do too much for the Black Friday weekend and doesn’t have many extra sales on top of what they already do. Owner Alan Ghidaleson said things on Small Business Saturday were a bit slow.

“For brick-and-mortars, this is a tough time,” Ghidaleson said. As for the pandemic: “We’re surviving it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but we get by.”

The owner said sales start to lag after Thanksgiving, as they have for the past five years or so. However, he said his business will survive the year, and hopes for better next year.  

Tricia and Stan Niegocki of Niegocki Farms. Photo by Kyle Barr

Niegocki Farms

604 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mount Sinai

As the last farm in Mount Sinai, the family owned Niegocki located at the southern corner of Heritage Park has a lot riding on its shoulders as the last holdout of the area’s agricultural charm. 

It’s why co-owner Tricia Niegocki said they have been able to survive the past few months, because of the customers and locals who know and support them. For Thanksgiving, the farm sold turkeys and eggs, though on the whole more people were looking for smaller birds. The farm opened up for tree sales after Thanksgiving, and since then sales have been good.

“We have a lot of locals that love to shop local and support local,” Niegocki said. “Since we’re the last farm here in Mount Sinai, we’ve actually been blessed to have a good past couple of days.” 

She said that because Christmas trees do not have a very large margin, they did not do any sales for Small Business Saturday. Still, things on the farm do not change very much, and while other businesses were forced to close early in the pandemic, Niegocki was considered essential. She said they will be able to maintain over the winter, adding they plan to use their space to host other small shops as a pop-up mall of sorts. They have already hosted two such events over the past year.

“Most of our customers are friends, people who have become friends over the years,” the farmer said. “We are very blessed we have animals that provide us meat and eggs, so that demand will always be there.”

Cat Rosenboom, owner of Rose & Boom in Mount Sinai. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Rose & Boom Boutique

176 N. Country Road #3, Mount Sinai

Cat Rosenboom, owner of Rose & Boom in Mount Sinai and St. James, said that supporting local business is more important than ever.

“I always say to shop small,” she said. “But it’s even more true this year.”

Rosenboom, who has owned the Mount Sinai location for four years this month, opened her second store in St. James nearly six months before the stay-at-home shutdown.

“We had just opened up and then had to close the door once we started to get our name out there,” she said. 

But despite the coronavirus crisis, she said people were shopping and supporting her stores throughout the whole pandemic, by purchasing things online through her social media accounts and delivering them personally to customers close by.

“You get a personal experience here that you won’t get at a big box store,” she said. “We take pride in getting to know our customers and their families.”

She also will host local retailer pop-ups to support fellow small business owners.

“We like to help local retailers and get the word out about their business,” she said. 

Leading up to Black Friday, the shops did daily surprise sales every day in hopes to bring people in – and it worked. “We allowed 10 people in the stores at a time, and they were busy the entire day,” she said. 

— Julianne Mosher

Merrily Couture in Mount Sinai. Photo from Google Maps

Merrily Couture

340 Route 25A, Mount Sinai

Manager of the Mount Sinai formal wear shop, Krystle Weber Hughes, said times have been tough since the start of the pandemic, as so much of their business depends on formal occasions. Their stellar event, school prom, was largely canceled by every school district in the local area. They were closed during the pandemic’s height, and all their shipments were delayed. To this day they are receiving items they ordered all the way back in January.

The store doesn’t have too many discounts around the time of Black Friday, but Weber Hughes said COVID has meant they have had to clean dressing rooms every time one is used, and they have to manage their space to make sure people are socially distanced.

She said they have received some returning customers, while others are somewhat hesitant to buy anything too early before an event that may well be canceled.

“Everything really got turned upside down because of COVID,” she said. “I think people are so afraid of events being cancelled, they’re waiting until the last minute to purchase a dress.”

Weber Hughes said they are waiting for January to see how things are, as that is when their prom season starts. Once that comes around, she said they will likely know how good the year will be.

Marion Bernholz, center, the owner of The Gift Corner. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Gift Corner

157 N. Country Road, Mount Sinai

Marion Bernholz, owner of The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai, has seen the impact a loyal customer base can have on a small shop for getting through a tough time.

TBR News Media has talked to Bernholz every Small Business Saturday for the past three years, and each time she has said it’s the customers who look at her as a friend and neighbor who help her survive in a time of booming online retail.

“We have been doing OK,” Bernholz said. “People have come up to me in Stop & Shop and asked if I worked at the store. They asked me, ‘Are you doing OK?’” 

But it seems word of mouth has worked for her. She said they have been receiving a host of new customers, adding that she estimates they had been ringing up 20 new customers a day from people coming to the North Shore during the summer and fall, many of whom were not able to take their usual vacations.

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of Game On in Miller Place and Smithtown

Game On

465 Route 25A, Miller Place

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of Game On, a used and refurbished video game and console retailer with locations in Miller Place and Smithtown, said he has been doing 200% to 300% better than last year, both in terms of sales and customers, which is something that to him was concerning considering just how hard it has been for so many other businesses out there. 

When businesses were forced to close, Whitworth and his business partner each came to the separate stores on the North Shore and sold some of their product online, which kept things moving.

“We’re very blessed,” he said. “We were profitable during that phase, too, while other stores couldn’t. For example, you couldn’t do anything for a nail salon. … It’s a weird feeling to have so many places struggle and then us flourish. We didn’t do anything different, we just got lucky.” 

Whitworth hosted two $1,500 giveaways to two local businesses this year. 

While Whitworth did a host of sales during last year’s Small Business Saturday, this year he tried to make it more subdued to make sure there weren’t too many people crowded close together in his store. Still, there was a steady stream of people coming into the store all day Saturday.

“We’re lucky, we sell things people really, really want right now during a pandemic when they stay home, so we really didn’t push it this year,” he said. “I didn’t want people thinking they need to come support us, because there are a lot of stores that are really actually struggling.”

Jim Donnelly, the owner of Grand Slam Tennis in Miller Place. and Commack. Photo by Kyle Barr

Grand Slam Tennis

816 Route 25A, Miller Place

Jim Donnelly, the owner of Grand Slam Tennis in Miller Place, with his main store in Commack, said his prospects for year to year are much different as a specialty shop. Small Business Saturday normally has no effect on him.

“People that enjoy specialty stores, and have all the information, they constantly come to us, we don’t have to advertise or anything,” Donnelly said. “They’re our advertisement.”

The biggest problem for him and his shop was when different municipalities closed tennis courts all over Long Island, despite the argument that tennis is one of the safer sports one could play during a pandemic, as by necessity players are well distanced. The tennis store owner said he and other tennis advocates got together to put a paper on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk arguing for tennis to be permitted, and was shortly thereafter allowed along with sports like golf. 

“We had a good summer — I hate to brag — I’m just glad I was in the right business for a pandemic, because I would hate to be the rest of these guys,” he said.

Jim and Sue Fiora, along with Misty the dog. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place Bait and Tackle

834 Route 25A, Miller Place

The fishing business had some interesting ups and downs this year, according to Miller Place Bait and Tackle owners Jim and Sue Flora. Their store had to close along with many others for several months, but once they opened they found many people who had never tried fishing before were buying rods and bait. It was one of the few activities still available to people during the height of COVID.

“It’s been a good season for us because everybody went fishing,” Sue Flora said. “So many people come in saying, ‘I want to learn to fish.’ It was very good for us. They supported us through it.”

She said customers were coming into the shop on Saturday to buy products or even gift cards, specifically to support them. 

“We have a nice bunch of loyal customers — we’re really fortunate,” she said.

Jim Flora said they were doing slightly better than last year, and should be in a relatively safe place going into next year.

Flowers on Broadway owner Stephanie Navas. Photo by Kyle Barr

Flowers on Broadway

43 Broadway, Rocky Point

April was supposed to be Rocky Point flower shop Flowers on Broadway’s 20-year anniversary celebration. Owner Stephanie Navas said they are still somewhat struggling as so many weddings are still on hold while big events, which usually means big sales for florists, are much more subdued.

They have had more to do with funeral work but, despite the morbid implication, even those sales are down compared to previous years, as more funerals have become much smaller events.

“Walk-in traffic isn’t anything like it used to be,” Navas said. “We are doing more home deliveries then we did in the past, but it doesn’t quite balance out.”

While she expected to see some more traffic for Thanksgiving, especially considering more people weren’t traveling, they didn’t see too big a jump in sales. Black Friday, on the other hand, is the “absolute worst” day to be open. This year she said they made little to nothing on the biggest shopping holiday of the year. Saturday did get slightly better, and now Flowers on Broadway is trying to start its big Christmas push. 

Still, she said she’s not ready to throw in
the towel. 

“My hope is just to do as well as last year,” she said. “I’m not hoping for an increase, I’m just looking to maintain at this point.”

Local stores are encouraging shoppers to buy local this holiday season. Photo by Julianne Mosher

COVID-19 has impacted business globally, but for local mom-and-pop shops in villages across Long Island, they have been hit twice as hard. 

Between the impact of online retailers, plus big box stores, the pandemic has made it even more difficult to make a sale. 

When people shop small, the sales tax goes right back into the local economy. The community depends on these stores to make the village look great, while also supporting a neighbor. 

That’s why on Thanksgiving weekend, Small Business Saturday immediately followed the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, with hopes to bring revenue into the smaller stores. 

All weekend long in Port Jefferson village, local shop owners gleamed with hope that customers would continue their holiday shopping “small” and keeping these businesses afloat. 

Here’s what some small business owners had to say: 

Stacy Davidson, owner of Pattern Finders/Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Pattern Finders/Stacy’s Finds

128 E. Main St., Port Jefferson

Stacy Davidson, owner of Pattern Finders/Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street, said she was pleasantly surprised on Thanksgiving weekend with the amount of people shopping around.

Unique gifts can be found at the shop, including antiques, furs, evening wear and accessories. 

Davidson said while the store is most known for her vintage jewelry, they also have a large selection of new pieces as well. She said that shopping at her store gives the customer a one-of-a-kind experience.

“All of the items in a store like mine you won’t find anywhere else ¬— especially online,” she said. 

At her store, Davidson said that all of her items are packaged nicely, “so all you have to do is hand them over with a smile — no gift wrap needed.”  

Davidson added that when people shop small, they’re supporting the community. 

“I’m very encouraged from the local community who came out to support us,” she said.

Joann Maguire, owner of Max & Millie. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Max & Millie

142 E. Main St., Port Jefferson

Joann Maguire, owner of Max & Millie, a woman’s clothing boutique nestled alongside East Main Street, said that her store gives customers a personalized shopping experience that cannot compete with a big box retailer.

“You should always shop small, not just during the holidays,” she said. 

The store is known for casual, chic and trendy clothes ranging in sizes 2 to 16, accessories and unique jewelry, including a small rack of pieces from former neighbor, Susan Rodgers Designs. 

Throughout the holiday weekend, Max & Millie sponsored several discounts from Friday to Sunday, completing the deal with their famous gift wrap. 

“We support our community,” she said. “We’ve always been there for you in terms of fundraisers, now it’s time for you to support us.”

Alana Miletti, owner of Fame & Rebel. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Fame and Rebel

415 E. Main St., Port Jefferson

Alana Miletti owns two locations of her store Fame and Rebel — one on Main Street in Patchogue, and the other on East Main in Port Jefferson village — so this past weekend was double the work as shoppers flocked in.

“Small businesses give back to the community more than a big box store does,” she said. “We employ so many community members and offer one-on-one personalization for each and every shopper.”

Throughout the holiday weekend, she offered a “shop more, save more” sale, which got dozens of people into her doors.  

Known for her on-trend clothing for women, the boutiques are constantly bringing in new arrivals that will fit any style every day.

“When you support a local business, you’re also supporting your town, city and neighborhood,” she said. “Small businesses pay sales taxes to the city and county the businesses are located in, and that tax money is used to support public schools, parks, roads and sidewalks, as well as fund public service workers. Imagine your town without any small businesses — pretty scary.”

Marianna Cucchi, owner of The Soap Box. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Soap Box

18 Chandler Square, Port Jefferson

Marianna Cucchi’s store, The Soap Box, has been in the village for 13 years. 

The shop, located in Chandler Square, houses hundreds of different gifts fit for everyone’s list. From homemade designer soaps, to bath and body products, to personal care, pajamas and other unique gifts, Cucchi said the last nine months have been hard and it’s going to take a while to recover.

“Shopping small is important because it supports our community and keeps our businesses open — especially after being closed over 70 days during the pandemic,” she said. 

Throughout the big shopping weekend, The Soap Box offered sales to shoppers stopping by. While browsing, they’d stop to admire the collection of rubber ducks in hats sitting politely by the front window. Cucchi also offers custom gift wrapping for all orders, a complete one-stop shop.

“We need to keep small town America,” she said. “This is your community and we want to see it thrive.”

Kandy Muñoz, owner of The Amazing Olive. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Amazing Olive

213 Main St., Port Jefferson

For the foodie on your shopping list, Kandy Muñoz said she can provide them with a unique and tasty gift this year. The Amazing Olive has two locations,  a newer location in Patchogue run by Muñoz’s son Steven, and her original Port Jefferson spot that she’s owned since 2012. 

Known for their vast collection of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, wine vinegars, salts and rubs, the store can accommodate any taste. 

But for this holiday season, Kandy Muñoz said personalized bottle labels and gift baskets are extremely popular this year. 

“When you shop small, you’re supporting a neighborhood family,” she said. 

Some Shops Report Better Sales, Others See a Dip

Outside The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

While Thanksgiving weekend is synonymous with stuffing one’s mouth with turkey and leftovers, it has been transformed into the time when people take advantage of some of the best sales right before the thick of the holiday season. 

But beyond big box stores and online, local small businesses still shuffle for room and attention amongst giants like Amazon. 

From 2010-18, spending on Small Business Saturday had reached a reported estimate of $103 billion, according to data from American Express.

It was estimated that in 2018 more than 104 million people shopped and dined on Small Business Saturday generating a record $17.8 billion in reported spending — up from $12.9 million in 2017. 

This past Saturday, U.S. consumers spent $19.6 billion at small businesses, according to survey data from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business. 

For small businesses, everything can be a factor for foot traffic, whether it’s the economy, the weather, even construction just down the road.

Here’s what a few business owners across the North Shore had to say on how they did on the busy shopping weekend.

The East End Shirt Co., 3 Mill Creek Road, Port Jefferson — owner Mary Joy Pipe:

Pipe has been at the head of the famed custom screen-printed design shop for years, and was recently named president of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

Outside East End Shirt Co. in Port Jefferson. Photo Courtesy of Google Maps

“We had a very good day and we were pleased with how many people came out. It was nice to see how customers were expressing their support for local businesses. 

“My business gets a lot of transient customers [from the village] but we also had a lot of locals and repeat customers come in. Sales were up a little bit from last year — we always try to offer great deals. 

“Being in business for 40 years, I think the nice weather on Saturday really helped and I think it helped other businesses in the area as well. 

“I think it’s good to show that there can be a happy medium of online and small business shopping.” 

Niche Boutique, 430-11 N. Country Road, St. James — owner Christine Mazelis: 

Niche Boutique, which was once located on Lake Avenue, moved over onto North Country Road earlier this year, opening in time for the Black Friday weekend.

Outside the new location of Niche Boutique in St. James.

“The store was offering 10-30 percent off a minimum purchase of $50. 

“We had a really nice day, with the new location we have definitely noticed the increase in foot traffic. There is definitely a different vibe in this location. I was very happy with the turnout and sales, we had returning and new customers coming throughout the day.” 

Red Shirt Comics, 322 Main St., Port Jefferson — owner Josh Darbee:

Red Shirt Comics, which opened in 2017, has been a mainstay for the comics community in the local area. Last year, Darbee said he saw a steady stream of customers walk through his doors Small Business Saturday.

Outside Red Shirt Comics in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We had Black Friday sales throughout the weekend. … Saturday went pretty poorly we didn’t see the foot traffic and sales as in years past.

“The weather might have had something to do with it, people are not going to go out as much when it’s cold. 

“We saw an initial crowd of holiday customers earlier in November. The people that did stop by [Saturday] bought a lot of books, periodicals and comic books.”

The Gift Corner, 157 N. Country Road, Mount Sinai — owner Marion Bernholz:

The Gift Corner owner Bernholz has over the last several years gone to lengths to promote her store on the Black Friday weekend. Over the past few years she reported good sales on Small Business Saturday.

Outside The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We had a wonderful day. It was one of our best Small Business Saturday [events], sales were way up. “We had so many regulars and new customers come in throughout the day. 

“We have a good following [of customers] and many of them told us that they came out just to support us on Saturday. 

“People are decorating their houses for the holidays, so many were buying Christmas signs, ornaments and other festive items. We have a lot of different areas in the store so a lot of customers we are trying to find some nice gifts for their families or their dogs. 

“I think it is really refreshing that people continue to come out on Small Business Saturday and remember that we are here.” 

 

Small business owners like Marion Bernholz, who owns The Gift Corner, above, are trying to find ways to compete with big box stores. Photo by Marion Bernholz

By Kyle Barr

For 40 minutes each morning when Marion Bernholz, the owner of The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai, opens her shop she lugs out all the product she keeps on the front porch all by herself. She does it every day, hoping the colors and interesting items will flag down cars traveling on North Country Road.

Thanksgiving day she was closed, but on Black Friday she put out her flags, signs, decorations, not expecting many customers at all, she said. Black Friday is perceived as a day for gaudy sales for the bigger stores with nationwide brands, or the Amazons of the world, though it has become just the appetizer for a weekend synonymous with shopping.

Ecolin Jewelers in Port Jefferson is co-owned by Linda Baker. Photo from Linda Baker

Instead, people flooded Bernholz’s store the weekend after Thanksgiving, and the customers kept streaming in even after Black Friday was days passed.

“We were busy on Friday, way busier than we had been since the bust, when the economy went down,” Bernholz said, beaming with excitement. “Wednesday was a spike. Friday was a major spike. It was so busy Saturday that people couldn’t find parking. There was a line out the door.”

At Elements of Home, a home and gift shop in St. James less than 12 miles from Gift Corner, the situation was different. Owner Debbie Trenkner saw Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday float by with only a small bump in sales, she said.

Though she advertised, Trenkner said that she only received a moderate boost in sales that weekend with only 27 people walking through her door on Black Friday, and only about 70 Saturday when she said she expected to see hundreds.

“After speaking to other retailers or feeling through the grapevine, all major events this year, Mother’s Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, we’ve done half the amount we’ve done in the past,” she said. “People do not shop local. Those that do are your 50-and-over crowd who do not like to order online. Younger people these days they are so attached to their phone, it’s their lifeline, in my opinion. It’s unfortunate because this is what communities are based on.”

“People do not shop local. Those that do are your 50-and-over crowd who do not like to order online. Younger people these days they are so attached to their phone.”

Debbie Trenkner

The similar local stores had polar opposite experiences during one of the busiest shopping weekends of the holiday season, though businesses overall this past Small Business Saturday, an event first sponsored by American Express in 2010, did very well though they fell short of 2016 numbers in total. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, 108 million consumers spent $12.9 billion Nov. 25.

Despite the slight dip from 2016, the data shows a much higher number of consumers are making the conscious decision to shop locally on the biggest spending date of the year for small businesses.

Stacey Finkelstein, an associate professor of marketing at Stony Brook University, said in a phone interview she has used psychological and behavioral economics to inform people about marketing problems, and she said a battle between instant gratification and the desire to support local stores is being waged for today’s consumers.

“Another tension for a lot of consumers who face this dilemma layered on top of this is this ethical quandary, which is ‘I want to support businesses that are consistent with my code of ethics and the values that I have as a consumer,’” Finkelstein said.

That value-based sales pitch is important, especially when it comes to the services offered. Many local businesses surveyed after this Black Friday weekend across the North Shore agreed the services they provide, whether it’s free gift wrapping or the ability to make a custom product, or even the ability to offer hands-on help to customers trying to figure out what gift is best, are the types of factors that neither online nor most large stores can match.

Fourth World Comics in Smithtown. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I think the most important thing to do besides creating an emotional experience and offering, obviously, great service is to really think about the values of those consumers in the local town and try and tap into those local values, such as if a town is really interested in sustainability, or ethically sourced food,” Finkelstein said.

One of the biggest questions that small business owners ask is whether young people are still willing to shop local. The consensus is they are the “plugged-in” generation, but that fact can be harnessed to work in favor of small business owners.

“Social issues are particularly important for a lot of millennials,” she said. “You tend to see a lot of that. I definitely don’t think millennials should be written off. I’m big into knitting, and if you ask what’s the stereotype for knitting, for example, is that grandmas knit, but actually there’s this active and large youthful contingent of knitters that are really driving and shaping that industry in a completely fascinating way. I think what it’s about is that millennials have these ethically laden values where they want to buy things that are local, that are environmentally sustainable.”

While many stores surveyed said this Black Friday weekend was “better than average” to “great,” there were several stores that did not see anywhere near the same boost in traffic. While the weather was nice, stores that didn’t meet expectations cited insufficient support from their local governments, or locations with little foot traffic, as their main deterrents.


Reactions from local store owners

Port Jefferson—Ecolin Jewelers

Co-owner Linda Baker:

We tend to run our sales to support our loyal customers, support our repeat customers. We had 20 percent off many items in the store, not all. That hasn’t been a big motivation to shop. In our industry
either they know us or they don’t.

The village was decorated nice and we had a good weekend. Black Friday for most retailers, for independent mom-and-pop retailers, has not been a big day for us. Our business is the last two weeks of the year. I think Black
Friday is when mom and dad go to look at televisions or cars — one big
purchase. It’s not a downtown thing. I don’t compare same day to same day from years before. I think there are too many variables, whether it’s the weather
or the news. Though I’d say this year was better than last year across the board.

Mount Sinai—The Gift Corner

Owner Marion Bernholz:

I don’t think Black Friday is as big of a thing anymore. We had people coming in at 10 a.m. and I asked them why they weren’t out shopping and they would say, “Oh, we don’t do that anymore.” I think people just don’t like to rush anymore, plus all the deals are available all week long, so there’s almost no point. Maybe, eventually, people will be able to have Thanksgiving dinner with their family, that’s the hope.

Though this was one of the best Black Fridays I’ve had since the bust in 2008, I went back and I looked at the papers for how it was in 2005. I couldn’t count it all — it was like the funds were flowing like water. It’s never
going to be 2005 again.

Half the people who came in my store on Saturday had no clue [about Small Business Saturday]. We’d be like, “OK, now we’ll explain it to you. Good that you’re here, and this is what it’s about.”

Rocky Point—Rocky Point Cycle

Owner Gary Wladyka:

We didn’t advertise but had in-store deals. We had discounts on shoes and sunglasses. There were more customers that Friday because more people had Friday off.

We’re always trying to get more customers, but we’re more of a
destination shop rather than a “Let’s go take a look” type thing.

This is the beginning of the end for small business. It’s going to continue to demise with people wanting to do
everything on the internet. The way new consumers are, it’s going to be hard to grow it. We try to provide service. You’re not going to get service online.

Setauket—All Seasons at Ari’s Treasures

Owner Jeff Aston:

We have an online presence. We did very well online over the course of the weekend. The store was busy. I’m a Christmas shop, so it’s kind of the height of our season now. We were offering 20 percent off storewide, we had some 25 percent-off items, some 50 percent-off items. We definitely went along with trying to capture that audience.

We do custom sign making and engraving, and it’s a little more of a custom product. I’m not sure how Black Friday helped us with that part of the business, but overall it was a good weekend. I’d say it was comparable to last year.

People want personalization, they want customization. You have to see the expression on people’s faces when they see our work. I’ve been in the Christmas business for 40 years, and I’ve never done anything more rewarding for my customers than what I’m doing now.

Young people today push a button and they get what they want. I’ve gotten away from the similar product you will see on Amazon. The beauty of the internet is that we can put our product out online. We’re on Etsy, and for the small business person who’s creating something themselves, Etsy is the way to go.

Smithtown—4th World Comics

Manager Terence Fischette:

“We didn’t do too much in sales. We did a lot of half-price items, took out a lot of stuff we wanted to get out of the back room. We don’t really compete with any of the big stores when it comes to Black Friday. We ended up doing a lot better than a normal Friday because people are out and in the shopping mood. The weekend was kind of normal, but it was one of the better Black Fridays that we’ve had in years.

You see some regular customers, you see some new people. Comics are definitely more popular now, people see the sign and they pull over. It’s a lot more gifts and toys. Whenever a new superhero movie comes out you’ll see kids coming in who want the new Captain America or the new Thor book. Black Friday is more of just toys, T-shirts and stuff like that.

We have our own holiday sale on Dec. 16 and that’s one of our biggest holiday sales of the year.”

Smithtown

4th World Comics (Comics, figurines and memorabilia)

Manager Terence Fischette:

“We didn’t do too much in sales. We did a lot of half-price items, took out a lot of stuff we wanted to get out of the back room. We don’t really compete with any of the big stores when it comes to Black Friday. We ended up doing a lot better than a normal Friday because people are out and in the shopping mood. The weekend was kind of normal, but it was one of the better Black Fridays that we’ve had in years.

You see some regular customers, you see some new people. Comics are definitely more popular now, people see the sign and they pull over. It’s a lot more gifts and toys. Whenever a new superhero movie comes out you’ll see kids coming in who want the new Captain America or the new Thor book. Black Friday is more of just toys, T-shirts and stuff like that.

We have our own holiday sale on Dec. 16 and that’s one of our biggest holiday sales of the year.”

Northport—Einstein’s Attic

Owner Lori Badanes:

“We did great, it was wonderful. We offered a lot of in store promotions. We had an Elf on a Shelf here, we read a story to the kids and the kids got a notebook and a pencil. They got to fill out a wish list, then all the kids got to make an ornament. We had giveaways, and make your own putty on Saturday.

We started planning this in the summer, back in August. We do it every year.

We did better this year than other years — 17 percent better. It was a nice jump. One thing is that we offered some light ups for an outdoor event. The kids got a lot of things to take home. I feel we’re a community-based business, and we support our community every chance we get.”

Huntington—Cow Over the Moon

Owner Brian Drucker:

“I feel like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, definitely did better than previous years. I didn’t do any specific specials that I can think of offhand.

It was a mixture of new people and regulars coming through. The big thing about a store like this being here for 23 years is that we have a steady number of regulars, but I saw a good crop of new customers come in.

One of the things I also do is sports memorabilia, and Aaron Judge [who plays for the New York Yankees] is one of the hottest, hottest things in the world. He had one of the greatest rookie seasons ever in baseball, so we sold a bunch of Aaron Judge autographed memorabilia, some pretty expensive stuff.

It’s hard to explain … why we did well. You never can tell you know, there was just a lot of people walking around. The town  was pretty booming.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Northport is ready to spread some holiday cheer this weekend.

The festivities kick off Friday, Nov, 25 with the annual tree lighting hosted by the Northport Chamber of Commerce. From 4 to 7 p.m. reindeer will be on display in the village. At 7 p.m. the tree will be lit inside Northport Village Park, and then Santa Claus comes to town with the Northport Fire Department in a parade down Main Street. Hot chocolate and cookies will be passed out for visitors as well.

Then starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, activities for Small Business Saturday will be hosted by the Northport Chamber of Commerce. Shoppers are invited to register at the Main Street Cafe on Main Street and receive a raffle ticket, along with a list of merchants in the village and discounts each participating store will be offering. When shoppers make a purchase from one of those stores, they will receive another raffle ticket. The chamber will raffle off 10 gift certificates to area stores and a few gift certificates to Main Street Cafe.

Finally at 6 p.m., Carl’s Candies, a new candy shop on Main Street, will keep the Northport leg-lighting tradition alive by hosting the event outside their shop. The annual lighting of the leg is a nod to the classic holiday film “A Christmas Story” and one of the most well-known movie props in cinematic history. The holiday tradition began in 2005 when owners of Northport Hardware Store lit the lamp and put it on display in their storefront window. Since then, the glowing leg has attracted hundreds of visitors to Northport Village each year.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza.

By Victoria Espinoza

The holiday season gets its unofficial start for Huntington residents this Saturday. The town has organized many events to kick-off the good times during its seventh annual Holiday Parade and Street Festival Nov. 26.

In addition to the event’s yearly staples, the town has also introduced a scavenger hunt this year to encourage children and families to explore Huntington Village as it is also Small Business Saturday.

The hunt is open to children ages 5 to 12 and will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Participants can register at KidzHitz, on Main Street, where they will receive a game board and clues that, when solved, will take them to 12 locations to get puzzle pieces to put on their game boards. When their board is complete, participants should return to KidzHitz, where they will receive coupons for a free music lesson and a free kid’s cup or cone at Ben & Jerry’s on Main Street. During the day Huntington Public Library and Panera Bread will also be hosting craft activities for kids, and carolers will be singing in the village throughout the day.

Huntington officials also created an interactive map shoppers can access online or on their smartphones and tablets that helps them access information and offers about the various merchants participating in Small Business Saturday. The interactive map contains a printable sheet of coupons, parking details and the parade route.

According to the town, last year 25 merchants signed up to be a location on the map and offered deals for the holiday season, and the site received a total of 2,789 hits, including 1,239 on the day of the parade and festival.

During the day shoppers are also encouraged to cast their votes for the best gingerbread houses in a competition that features two categories: commercial bakeries and home bakers. The houses are on display at the Paramount Theater and what was formerly Freedman Jewelers on New York Avenue.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said the town tries to build on this event every year.

“Each year, new events and features get added to make the day even more special, and this year is no exception, with the expanded gingerbread house competition and additional activities for children,” he said in a statement. “That’s why people from all across Long Island come early and stay late for an entire day of family fun.”

The holiday parade begins at 6 p.m. at the Big H Shopping Center on New York Avenue, and this year for the first time there will be a grand marshal leading the way.

Sal Valentinetti, a Bethpage pizza deliveryman, competed on this season of the reality TV show “America’s Got Talent,” and sang his way to the finals. He’ll lead the Huntington parade and perform a few songs.

“I’m honored and thrilled to be part of this Huntington tradition and I’m looking forward to it,” the 21-year-old said. Valentinetti will perform three shows at The Paramount Dec. 15, 16 and 22.

The parade includes competitions for the best floats in several categories. Judges will choose based on how well participants follow the parade theme of Cartoon Holiday. Local fire departments, businesses and organizations participate in the parade.

After the parade ends, The North Shore Pops, a concert band, will perform in front of the holiday tree in the village along with Valentinetti. After the tree lighting ceremony, the festival will continue on Wall Street, and kids will be able to meet Santa Claus, get their faces painted, play in the bounce houses and enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate.

Free parking will be available at the Huntington train station, with a convenient free shuttle from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.