Small Business Saturday was a popular concept in the Fresno area – even for those who didn't hear about the idea until they stepped out to go shopping Saturday morning.
The national event, which encourages shoppers to support their local mom-and-pop stores, is in its second year and fits between the big-box store feeding frenzy known as Black Friday and its online alternative, Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday was the brainchild of American Express, which touts the notion that November and December are make-or-break months for many local entrepreneurs. The day also got a boost from President Barack Obama, who took daughters Malia and Sasha shopping at local stores in the Dupont Circle area of downtown Washington, D.C.
In the Fresno and Clovis areas, merchants not surprisingly seemed more aware of the event than shoppers were. At Way Out West in the 300 block of Pollasky Avenue in Old Town Clovis, sales associate Amelia Larson said a steady stream of customers made their way into the business as soon as doors opened about noon. She conceded, however, that might also have something to do with Saturday being the kick-off of the holiday shopping season.
Nearby at Roy's Trains and Things, owners Roy Ogle and Sandy Dinsdale said it was too soon to know whether Small Business Saturday would bring in more customers.
"I was expecting to be busy anyway," said Ogle. "[We] spent quite a bit of money on advertising."
Ogle has operated the business since 1998 after selling a landscape business. It lets him combine business with a lifetime hobby.
"I'm a longtime fan of trains," he said. "Since I was about 15 months old."
The day got a thumbs-up from people on the sidewalks of Old Town, too.
Debra Souza of Coarsegold said she wasn't shopping in Clovis because it was Small Business Saturday, but she supports the concept.
"We actually always try to frequent local businesses," she said. "Definitely don't want to lose the mom-and-pop stores."
Walter Haight of Clovis went to Old Town with the idea of bolstering local merchants but was disappointed when he didn't find what he wanted.
"I was looking to see if anyone had a push scooter," he said. "I'm probably going to Walmart."
Sue and Richard Johnson of Fresno, frequent customers at the Fig Garden shopping area at Shaw and Palm avenues, said the Small Business Saturday campaign helps consumers remember to shop with local retailers.
"It sounds like an excellent idea," said Richard Johnson. "They push the big-box stores for Black Friday. The local stores keep the community going."
In southwest Fresno, Sandra Warren of Good BBQ, which touts west Fresno-style barbecue, said Saturday was actually a little slower than normal. She attributed that to it being just two days after the national day of overeating – Thanksgiving. But she said the business, which is in the 400 block of Fresno Street, serves lunch and caters as well, is doing great.
"I love the 'buy local,' " she said. "I did a mass text [about it]."