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Small Business Saturday campaigns call for New Yorkers to shop local

Events include a crawl in Astoria.

Nicole Panettieri, owner of The Brass Owl boutique,

Nicole Panettieri, owner of The Brass Owl boutique, organizes the Small Business Saturday Retail Crawl in Astoria. Photo Credit: The Brass Owl

When the family meals are put away and the pies have all been eaten on Thanksgiving weekend, many people reach for their credit cards. All across New York City, small businesses are hoping to get a piece of the action. 

While Black Friday conjures up images of long lines outside big-box stores and people fighting over televisions, local shops are working to get customers through the doors both on the big day, as well as Small Business Saturday. 

"This really kicks off the holiday season for us and it is usually one of our busiest days of the year," said Lexi Beach, who owns Astoria Bookshop, of Saturday. The mom-and-pop bookstore is participating in the neighborhood's Small Business Saturday Retail Crawl, in which customers get "passport" stamps for each participating store they visit and — if they collect five or more — can enter to win gift cards worth $450.

"It's really festive," Beach said. "We've found it to be really successful, and we love seeing the excitement of people who just love supporting local businesses."

Nicole Panettieri, owner The Brass Owl, a boutique in Astoria, organizes the retail crawl, now in its fourth year. Last year, more than 250 people turned in their "passports," she said. Eighteen businesses are participating in this year's crawl.

"There's that nostalgic mentality for New Yorkers having mom-and-pop shops. People really love supporting the local businesses," Panettieri said. "All the owners here, because we live here, we really keep the neighborhood's best interest in mind when we're curating the shops."

In Brooklyn, the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District is doing a monthlong photo campaign running on a dozen LinkNYC kiosks in the borough starting Saturday, hoping to emphasize the personalities and faces behind some of the area's locally-owned shops.

"It's not just about shopping for gifts. But the reason people go to these places and go back to them is the wonderful relationships people have, and we want to celebrate that," said Sara Nordmann, the executive director of the Atlantic Avenue BID. "I realize that shopping online has its appeals — it's convenient. You can't reason people out of it. [But] if they want to have a nice place to live with active street life, with people to say hello to, with something interesting to see . . . they need to make a commitment to brick-and-mortar and to the people behind it."

Eva Dayton, the founder of Consignment Brooklyn on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, hopes Friday and Saturday will be a big family shopping weekend. She is planning on giving away essential oil candles with a $100 purchase and was thinking of serving a hot cocktail — "just something to make it a little more cozy," she said.

"I think it will draw in more family people in the neighborhood as opposed to just regular shoppers. I feel like people stay around this neighborhood for Thanksgiving," she said. "It's nice to just do a little something."

Gregg Bishop, the city's Department of Small Business Services commissioner, said the agency tries to prepare small businesses for the big shopping weekend — and the holiday season that follows — with workshops and marketing tips, as well as pushing out the message to shop small on social media and through radio advertisements. SBS is also participating in a lighting ceremony at the Empire State Building on Nov. 21 in celebration of Small Business Saturday.

Bishop said smaller shops can actually have a few advantages over the bigger ones.

"You don't have the crowds, all the negative stuff that you see," he said. "You have the flexibility of knowing you can walk into a store and find something unique."

Still, Karen Zebulon, who owns the Boerum Hill children's store Gumbo, said Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are not very busy for her. Instead, the last couple of weeks before Christmas are when business really picks up. 

"I always think of Black Friday as a big-box store, people are running to get the big technology items. They're not really going into the small stores as much on Friday," she said, adding she wishes Small Business Saturday was not the same weekend as Black Friday. "People have gone out, they've spent huge amounts of money. I just feel like it overpowers Small Business Saturday. It's hard for people to even focus on it or recognize it."

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