Attitude and Gratitude Abound in Small Locally Owned Businesses
WESTERN SAN JUANS – When it comes to holiday shopping, there’s no place like home. That’s the message that local merchants are hoping to convey this Thanksgiving weekend as they embrace Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday, two nation-wide movements urging shoppers to spend their dollars locally at independent small businesses during the holiday season.
The Montrose Downtown Development Authority is going all out to promote Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24,highlighting the power of small businesses to invigorate a local economy. American Express, a major sponsor, is offering $25 rebates to shoppers who use their AmEx card to buy something from participating small local businesses on this day (cardholders must enroll first at shopsmall.com). Federal Express is another partner in the promotion.
Scott Shine, MDDA’s executive director, is heading up the Small Business Saturday effort in Montrose. When The Watch tracked him down for an interview last Friday afternoon, he had just spent much of the day running around town distributing 200 blue doormats to participating local businesses. The doormats say “Shop Small. Welcome to Small Business Saturday.”
Downtown business thresholds will be dotted with the doormats this Saturday, driving their message home to shoppers.
“The idea is that small businesses are really driving our economy and provide a unique and memorable shopping experience,” Shine said. “In between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you should head out into your own community and do some shopping at local small businesses. It’s a day to bring the family downtown after Thanksgiving and enjoy a community-oriented hometown holiday experience.”
Many participating businesses will be having holiday sales, live music and demos of products. In addition to shopping, there will be a live radio broadcast from the streets of downtown Montrose, and free holiday hayrides from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., sponsored by local tractor dealer Montrose Implements and Motor Sports.
“There will be a cool antique tractor doing one loop and a new Massey Ferguson tractor doing another loop,” he said. “It’ll be a great day to be downtown.”
Hayrides start at Centennial Plaza at Main Street and Uncompahgre Avenue.
Shine hopes the day will showcase Montrose’s established downtown businesses as well as the 20 new ones that have opened up this year.
“In this economy, we have seen a lot of interest in downtown, with young entrepreneurs and really interesting specialty stores,” he said. “We will encourage people to use this day to come down and explore what’s new. Let’s celebrate that, and keep our holiday dollars local.”
Thanksgiving weekend is Montrose’s kick-off to a whole host of holiday events. Santa makes his first appearance in downtown Montrose on Friday night, Nov. 23, at a tree lighting ceremony and candlelit procession. The tree lighting happens at 5:30 p.m. at the big spruce tree in front of historic courthouse. “The lighting is incredibly improved,” Shine said. “We are using many thousands of bright LED lights.”
The evening includes refreshments, music, and a reading of The Night Before Christmas. Once the tree is lit up, hundreds of glowstick candles will be handed out, and Santa will lead a procession down Main Street to his cabin at Centennial Plaza.
“It will be a great community and family event,” Shine said.
IN TELLURIDE, PLAID IS THE NEW BLACK
Many Telluride businesses are working to whip up shop-local enthusiasm this weekend as well, by participating in both Small Business Saturday as well as the Plaid Friday phenomenon that started in Oakland, Calif. several years ago as a small-business alternative to big-box Black Friday promotions, and has quickly spread via social networking.
The name Plaid Friday is meant to evoke the diversity and creativity of independent businesses. Participating merchants typically offer discounts and specials to shoppers who wear plaid on Friday, Nov. 23.
Between the Covers bookseller Daiva Chesonis and Bootdoctors proprietor Penelope Gleason are both excited about the concept.
Bootdoctors, a true “Mom and Pop” business with 55 local employees, is using Plaid Friday as an opportunity to showcase the grand reopening of its newly remodeled store in Mountain Village, and will be offering great deals for locals at all three of its locations: Bootdoctors in Mountain Village and Paragon/Bootdoctors on Main Street and Oak St. in Telluride.
“We just want to say ‘thank you’ to the locals and celebrate our ‘attitude and gratitude’ to the community for supporting us,” Gleason said.
The majority of stores on Main Street in Telluride are locally owned and operated, Gleason pointed out. “You literally walk in and meet the owner, and that person really cares about their business and the community.”
Many local business owners – Gleason included – actively give back to their community in many ways. During Telluride’s holiday season, this includes supporting the “Angel Baskets” program in which needy area families benefit from donations of cash, clothing, food, household items and toys – all of it collected, wrapped, labeled and delivered by volunteers as anonymously given Christmas gifts.
During this weekend’s shop-local promotions, Bootdoctors will sell items for angel baskets at cost plus five percent. Gleason herself also helps head an annual warm clothing drive, with distribution occurring on Thanksgiving Day.
“All of us donate tremendously to the local nonprofit world,” Gleason said. “All of the local businesses contribute heavily to the community and are volunteering to good social causes. Shopping is a big thing on Thanksgiving weekend. If you are going to spend dollars, why not cycle them through your own community?”
Chesonis, at Between The Covers Bookstore, is also very active in the ‘Buy Local’ movement and is especially psyched for Plaid Friday. She recalls that last year many of her patrons embraced the event with typical Telluridian zeal.
“One guy came in and told me, ‘I have plaid boxers on,’ and I’m like ‘Show me,’ and he did!”
Another customer came in and told Chesonis, “Oh my gosh, I dug into the back of my closet and got the nastiest plaid I had,” she laughed.
Between the Covers will also be participating in Small Business Saturday. Chesonis said she loves the concept of a big credit card company helping out the little guy on Main Street.
“It’s really about us educating people. We need these kinds of promotions,” she said. “We need every single one of them. As small merchants, we either collaborate, or die.”
Chesonis sees the whole ‘shop local’ movement as a matter of changing people’s perspective. “Maybe saving a few dollars isn’t worth it in the long run,” she said. “People need to realize that they need to spend a little more in the short term to make sure the local economy stays strong.”
OURAY COUNTY SHOPS LOCAL TOO
In Ouray and Ridgway, the shop-local movement really got underway in 2010, with the so-called 3/50 initiative. This movement worked to spread the message that if locals each spend $50 at three of their favorite local businesses each month, it makes a massive impact in the local economy.
The movement gained momentum over the course of a year or so, but has since fizzled.
“We are looking back into it, to see how we can resurrect it and take the lead,” said Ouray Chamber Resort Association director Katerina Papenbrock, who is also encouraging local merchants to hop on board the Plaid Friday train.
The group Transition Ourway, meanwhile, is doing its part to raise awareness of the importance of shopping locally this holiday season by hosting a panel of local retailers for a public forum at the Sherbino Theater from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2.
The panel, consisting of Darin Hill (Mountain Market), Glynn Williams (co-owner of the erstwhile Ouray Variety Store), and Daiva Chesonis (Between the Covers Bookstore) will share humor and insights about what it takes to run a successful small business, and will answer questions about their prices, policies, and public presence.