SCHENECTADY — The annual national promotion of Main Street merchants turns 10 this week, and local leaders made a pitch Tuesday for Capital Region residents to divert some of their shopping dollars to local retailers from the internet and big-box stores.
Small Business Saturday has seen an estimated $103 billion in retail activity since American Express created the event 10 years ago, noted Jim Salengo, executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation.
The DSIC and the Capital Region Chamber are teaming up again this year to encourage area residents to visit independent merchants on Small Business Saturday, which is sandwiched in between the mass-marketing onslaught known as Black Friday at larger merchants and the online bonanza of Cyber Monday.
Chamber President and CEO Mark Eagan noted that local merchants actually need support every day, though it’s nice to have the one day officially dedicated to them.
“It’s day in and day out that these independent, locally owned businesses really impact our community,” Eagan said. “Not just the services that they provide and the folks that they employ, but if you look at it in our community, they’re the ones who volunteer, they’re the ones who donate to nonprofits. It’s really part of the fabric of our community.”
Joining Salengo and Eagan outside Johnny’s restaurant on Tuesday were one of the newest Schenectady merchants and one of the more established: Caroline Bardwell, owner of the brand-new Schenectady Trading Company on lower Union Street, and Bobby Mallozzi, co-owner of Johnny’s and other area dining establishments.
Bardwell, whose store carries only items made in or about the city and county of Schenectady, said she works to be part of the community fabric Eagan cited.
“My business tagline is, ‘Commerce That Builds the Community,’” she said. “My business has 80 different suppliers of goods.”
Bradwell also noted that local spending generates local sales tax, part of which supports the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, which has played a large part in the revitalization of downtown Schenectady.
“It’s an everyday thing,” she said.
While many small retailers sell goods that can be bought at their larger competitors, restaurants are selling an experience and a meal that are unique, no matter how many other places feature the same menu item.
But Mallozzi said his family’s restaurant and pastry shop still feel pressure from the big chains, because they are able to undercut independents on price. As a small businessman, he’s an enthusiastic supporter of Small Business Saturday.
“When you spend money locally through independent, privately owned businesses it stays local,” he said. “It helps our property taxes. Those small companies are usually the ones who are donating to local charities and supporting local sports teams. So it’s great to keep money here locally.”
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said there are more and more reasons to come downtown.
“We are fortunate to have a group of businesses here that are setting standards not only within this community but for the region,” McCarthy said.
Other retail zones across the nation and region will have similar promotional efforts underway this Saturday, including the Upper Union Street Business Improvement District, which holds its annual tree-lighting ceremony at dusk. Saratoga Springs, Gloversville, Troy and Sharon Springs are also making concerted efforts, and many merchants not part of a business district are working alone to boost the Shop Small message.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, noted that last year’s Small Business Saturday was the most successful ever and predicted 2019 would be even better in Schenectady, given the recent additions to the retail landscape.
“It’s the small businesses that truly are the backbone of our economy,” he said.
The following Schenectady-area businesses are offering Small Business Saturday promotions in cooperation with the Capital Region Chamber and Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation:
- BEX, 234 Union St.
- Bittersweet Candy, 173 Jay St.
- Cornells in Little Italy Restaurant, 39 N. Jay St.
- The Costumer, 1020-1030 Barrett St. and 1995 Central Ave., Colonie
- CREATE Community Studios, 137 State St.
- The DillyBean, 133 Jay St.
- Goose Hill Good Finds, 2155 Van Vranken Ave.
- GV Apothecary, 1321 Erie Blvd.
- Hair Razors, 1752 Union St.
- Head To Tail, 1604 Union St.
- Healing Path Massage, 670 Franklin St.
- Liza’s of Schenectady, 508 State St.
- Majestic Salon, 147 Jay St.
- The Makeup Curio, 510 State St.
- New York Folklore, 129 Jay St.
- The Open Door Bookstore, 128 Jay St.
- Orion Boutique, 169 Jay St.
- Patricia’s Room Antiques, 162 Jay St.
- Raw Juice & Smoothie Bar, 177 Jay St.
- Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St.
- The Schenectady Trading Company, 609 Union St.
- The Silver Shop, 166 Jay St.
- Thistle Be Perfect, 19 Glenridge Road, Glenville
- Upstate CBD, 1613 Union St.
- Wolf Hollow Brewing Company, 6882 Amsterdam Road, Glenville.