WATERTOWN — North Country residents can’t walk much further than a few blocks without seeing a local small business, and no day is more important to small business than the day after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday.
Julie M. Lichtenauer, a Bay Area California native and co-owner of Crosstown Julie Brown ReMarket in Washington Street Plaza across from Watertown High School, said Small Business Saturday has been the busiest day of the year for the past few years .
“It really kicks off the holiday season and shows our entire local community what the region has to offer,” she said.
Ms. Lichtenauer called her shop a “host” to other local vendors because it sells goods from about 40 small businesses.
Starting in downtown Watertown, Ms. Lichtenauer said moving to Washington Street worked really well, especially for parking.
She said she was told people would come by and say they would stop another time.
“Local, small shops, you can’t get past them. You have to stop,” she said.
She said that when her husband retired and wanted to be his own boss, she and her husband decided to become small business owners.
“With the help of community support, our business was born,” she said.
At the heart of Paddock Art & Antiques is the historic Paddock Arcade.
Catherine A. Ellsworth, co-owner of Paddock Art & Antiques, said more people in the community will be coming out and looking for small businesses to support this weekend on Small Business Saturday.
“As a small company, we exist because people support us,” she said.
The shop has been open for 15 years and has been part of other Nordland shops as well as touring shows.
“15 years, I think he’s doing fine,” she said.
She said some people were coming for the Small Business Saturday hype, the vendors and to see the renovations to the Paddock Arcade which are due to be completed this weekend.
Jake Johnson Properties, which owns Paddock Arcade, has posted on its Facebook page that there will be a “grand reopening of Paddock Arcade” on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
Ms Ellsworth said she expects it to be “fabulous” once the renovations are complete.
“We’re getting more first-level retail employees,” she said. “We’ve always wanted to do that because the more retail associates you have, the more people will come in and discover you.”
She said that all the empty rooms on the first floor are rented but not yet occupied.
There are three owners, the only three people working in the art and antique shop and there is usually one person working a day. That’s not the case on Small Business Saturday when all three are working because it’s usually very busy.
“I wish it was like this more often, but we appreciate it when it is,” she said.
All three co-owners offer items for sale in the store.
Ms Ellsworth said the three owners originally enjoyed collecting antiques but began selling pieces and attending antique fairs in the summer.
“It just developed that way. We like doing that,” she says.
She said some of the antiques will become part of her personal collection, while others will be bought to be resold.
Art is also available from Ms. Ellsworth who makes pottery; her daughter Claire Ames, who makes charcoal drawings; and her husband, Lee Ellsworth, who takes photographs.
According to Benjamin R. Dixon, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Saturday is less of an event and more of a movement.
“Everyone knows about Black Friday, but SBS is basically a movement that’s trying to divert some of that consumer money into small and locally run businesses,” he said. “It’s a way to encourage people to ‘shop small’ during the holiday season.”
When people keep their money local, Mr. Dixon likened it to a form of community investment that benefits everyone in the community as those dollars flow back into the local economy.
“It’s one of the key reasons for shifting spending from multinational, large companies involved in Black Friday to small, locally owned stores via Small Business Saturday,” said Mr. Dixon.
He said it’s also important because many local businesses depend on the Christmas shopping spree to be profitable. “This season is one of their biggest sources of income,” he said.
The Chamber is doing what it can to raise awareness of the day and the movement.
“First of all, we’re spreading the word,” said Mr. Dixon. “We also allow our member companies to share offers and promotions through our website and we will share this information with local and regional markets.”
The Chamber encourages local businesses to offer deals and promotions to attract local spending.
“Evoke how your business supports the communities we call home,” he advised.
One of the local organizations celebrating Small Business Saturday is SLC Arts, 6 Raymond St., Potsdam.
The cultural center has planned a full day of events.
“Small Business Saturday is one of those post-Thanksgiving holiday events that’s celebrated across the country,” said SLC Arts Executive Director Maggie M. McKenna. “We will be celebrating our one year anniversary at the arts center as part of SBS and there will be all kinds of fun activities throughout the day.”
In Lewis County, Kim Gracey, owner/operator of the West Martinsburg Mercantile on West Martinsburg Road since June 2019, said they, too, are usually quite busy on Small Business Saturday.
“Which is good,” she said.
In the shop they sell pottery, pottery, wood crafts, local honey, local syrup, local blends, local jelly, crochet items, local tea, local cheese and much more.
“It’s just a really wide range of items,” she said.
Ms Gracey said she remembered going into the shop as a child before it closed and wanted to open it again.
The building was bought in 2001, but she wanted to wait until she retired to open the shop.
She said she thinks it’s important to have local sellers in her business because the Lewis County business community is so small.
“Why don’t you want to support your family, friends, neighbors?” she said. “It’s great to do your big department stores, Amazon or whatever. But you get a personal touch with every item that someone makes by hand locally, and you can’t buy that in China.”
“We strongly support small, local businesses,” she said.