SOUTHERN INDIANA — Small Business Saturday is the biggest day of the year for DADA, a women's clothing boutique in downtown New Albany, and for owner Benjamin Byrn, the day plays an important role in supporting his local business.
"This is so important for us as small businesses, because it gives us the cushion that we need to carry us through the first quarter of the year," he said. "Traditionally, the last quarter of the year is the biggest and the first quarter of the year is the smallest, so this one day really helps us not only kick off our holiday season, but helps carry us through until spring."
Local shops are preparing for Small Business Saturday, an American shopping holiday launched by American Express in 2010. The holiday coincides with several holiday related events in New Albany and Jeffersonville, including Develop New Albany's Jingle Walk, the City of New Albany's Light Up #OurNA and the City of Jeffersonville's Light Up Jeffersonville.
Develop New Albany President Rob Dunn said Small Business Saturday helps people understand the importance of their local buying power.
"Those local business owners and their families — they make a bet on New Albany and the whole community, and it's a great way for the community to come back and support that investment they have made to make New Albany a great place to live."
Develop New Albany's Jingle Walk, which is a wine walk featuring shops throughout downtown New Albany, is one way the organization helps attract customers to local businesses. Last year, about 800 people participated in the walk, he said.
For Byrn, this Small Business Saturday is both the second anniversary for the New Albany shop and the opening day for DADA's second location in downtown Corydon. The New Albany boutique, located at 219 Pearl St., is a stop on the Jingle Walk, so those with tickets can enjoy wine samples from a local winery inside the store.
"The wine walk in general has also been a significant draw for everyone in downtown, and of course, American Express does Shop Small, and there's so many different elements that contribute to Small Business Saturday," he said. "It's really awesome to see how everybody comes together on this one day to give back to the small businesses in the community."
Thanksgiving was a week later this year, and that has been difficult for the boutique, since many shoppers do not begin their Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving. November has been a "horrible" month in terms of business at DADA, Byrn said, and he hopes Small Business Saturday will help "soften the blow" from the shortened holiday season.
"The entire downtown is feeling that, from my understanding," he said. "I've talked to several other business owners, and it has been a very, very slow start to the holiday season."
Carolyn Minutillo, owner of Lavender Hill Floral in downtown Jeffersonville, said Small Business Saturday is a day for people to escape from the crowds at the big-box stores and the rush of the Black Friday experience. Her shop, located at 359 Spring St., serves as both a florist and lifestyle shop.
"[Customers are] able to shop with typically less crowds and less stress and feel a little bit more relaxed being able to shop where they're not feeling like they have to grab something because 50 other people are grabbing for it as well," she said. "And I think a lot of people also want to be able to keep their dollars local and feel like they are supporting a smaller business, because we do rely on the local community to repeat business throughout the year, not just at holiday time."
For Jenny Watson, owner of The Elderberry Co. in New Albany, this will be her shop's first Small Business Saturday. The business, which sells elderberry syrup, has only been open in its brick-and-mortar location at 302 Pearl St. since September, and she believes Saturday will be an excellent way to introduce new customers to her product. The shop is also a stop on the Jingle Walk, and she and her staff have made extra batches of the syrup in preparation.
She said when customers shop small, they are "literally changing people's lives."
"It got started with people coming to my house before I made a store out of [the syrup]," Watson said. "Customers are choosing my product over something at a big box store, and have another layer of gratefulness to the people who were here since the beginning and decided to shop small."
Warren Schimpff, co-owner of Schimpff's Confectionary, certainly understands the importance of supporting local business — the locally-owned candy shop has been open for 128 years at 347 Spring St. in downtown Jeffersonville. In general, the days after Thanksgiving are the start of a busy Christmas season at the shop, and he appreciates having a day focused on the idea of shopping small.
He wears American Express's "Shop Small" pin on his apron year-round, he said.
"It's an extra draw [for business], and it's also a reminder to 'shop small' in general — you don't just have to do it on Small Business Saturday," Schimpff said.