A buzzer sounds when a customer walks through the front door of Brownstown Hardware.
Store employee Kim Lucas steps away from the counter, greets the customer by name and asks if she can help them find something. She then takes them to the item and goes back to the cash register to ring it up.
A few minutes later, another customer comes in. Store owner Junior Wessel walks over to them, greets them and helps them find what they need.
That continues throughout the day in the downtown Brownstown store that has been in operation for 107 years.
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That’s small business shopping at its best.
Each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday is celebrated, encouraging people to patronize local small businesses. It was first observed nationwide in 2010.
Brownstown Hardware will be among the businesses open that day. Lucas said it has become a great tradition.
“Our country was brought up on small businesses, and I think that we need to recognize those people, that they are still around,” she said. “The big box (stores) can do their thing, but don’t push out the small businesses that can do their thing, too, that contribute to a town or a city.”
Big box retailers are the main beneficiaries of Black Friday, which has been observed the Friday after Thanksgiving since 1932. And e-commerce businesses have benefited from Cyber Monday on the Monday after Thanksgiving since 2005.
Then in 2010, American Express stepped up to sponsor and promote Small Business Saturday.
This year, with the help of American Express, the Brownstown Chamber of Commerce and Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce are launching the Shop Small Saturday campaign, which will take place Saturday.
Both of those organizations applied earlier this year to be “neighborhood champions” to receive promotional items to give to 10 of their member businesses.
That kit includes rugs, posters and business cards to promote Shop Small Saturday, and then canvas bags, ink pens, stickers, balloons and other items to give to customers Saturday.
Also, through its website, American Express shares tips on how to promote businesses and provides downloadable marketing materials.
Tricia Bechman, president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, said if a community doesn’t have a Main Street group or a chamber of commerce, a business can apply for a kit on its own.
Both local chambers are tying in other special promotions Saturday.
For the second year, the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce is offering a holiday passport program. Through the end of December, people can visit one of the 40 participating chamber members and get the passport stamped based on the amount of money spent. When the passport is filled up, you turn it in for a chance to win a prize.
Last year, there were 265 completed passports turned in, resulting in $66,250 spent locally in a month, Bechman said.
It doesn’t cost the business or consumer anything to participate.
Also Saturday, by making a purchase at one of the participating stores in Brownstown and Ewing, shoppers can enter to win a prize package valued at $500. It contains gift cards and items from local businesses, said Maria Powell, office manager for the Brownstown Chamber of Commerce.
“Shop Brownstown and our chamber members. It might pay off,” Powell said. “It’s to get the people in our stores. We want them to do something for our chamber members to help them with their retail.”
Some of the small businesses also plan to have special promotions or discounts in their stores Saturday.
Lucas said she appreciates Powell’s work in promoting Shop Small Saturday and also featuring Brownstown businesses on the chamber’s website and Facebook page.
“I think it’s a necessary thing for somebody to help work for us in a different way and as a group, as a town, rather than you just trying to do it on your own,” Lucas said.
Powell said she is happy to help and understands the importance of Shop Small Saturday.
“The major chain stores have Black Friday, and I think the retailers need their day, too,” she said. “They have a lot of unique things to offer.”
Bechman echoed those thoughts.
“Small Business Saturday kind of reminds everybody that they can still do a lot of their shopping by staying right here in town,” she said. “After you go get your big deals for Black Friday, you’re not going to be done with all of your Christmas shopping. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to accomplish 85 percent of my Christmas shopping on Small Business Saturday.”
Black Friday can be fun for some people, but it also is hectic with the crowded stores, Bechman said. Small Business Saturday tends to be more easy going.
“The small stores will be full because they are smaller, but everybody is there for their enjoyment,” she said. “They are there to support the local business owners, and that really, I think, plays a lot into it. It’s a relaxing time.”
Shannon Allman and her mother, Connie Swider, have owned and operated Hearts Desire Gift Shop in downtown Seymour for 21 years. Allman said Shop Small Saturday is a good way to remind people of the small mom-and-pop shops and downtown businesses.
“We do get a lot of people comment that they want to help out the small businesses in town. People come in just because it is Small Business Saturday, and they’ve decided they are going somewhere that’s small in town and shop,” Allman said.
“People seem to love to come here,” Swider said. “They tell us coming here is better than going to Little Nashville. They are trying to build (downtown Seymour) up all of the time.”
Allman said the holiday passport program and Seymour Main Street’s Downtown Shop Around events have helped draw customers, too.
“Every little bit to remind people to come downtown helps,” she said. “It keeps them in town. If they can find it in town, they don’t have to go out of town, and you can keep your money local. It helps out all the way around.”
Shop Small Saturday: americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small
Brownstown Chamber of Commerce: brownstownchamber.org
Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce: seymourchamber.com