With Black Friday well underway, shoppers everywhere are packing malls and department stores in a flurry of commerce.
But one day later, small businesses throughout Johnson County hope to showcase the exclusive clothing, jewelry, home decor and other gifts that make shopping locally so special.
“For us, Small Business Saturday on Madison Avenue is just like Black Friday here in the mall,” said Scott Eanes, owner of Take Root Country Store in Greenwood. “Shop small, shop local, that’s really starting to resonate with a lot more people. When you shop small, independently-owned businesses, there’s a lot more care and love that goes into everything.”
Small Business Saturday will spotlight the county’s merchant community while kick-starting holiday sales in Franklin, Greenwood, Bargersville and other towns. Special deals, giveaways and refreshments will add to the excitement of the day as stores give shoppers an experience that they can only get in their local stores.
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“Of course it helps sales, but it helps remind people what small business is about. And it reminds them that small businesses are still alive and kicking,” said Amy Harness, who owns Trinkets N Threads in Franklin. “Our regulars support us every other day, but Small Businesses Saturday helps for people who don’t shop small businesses in general.”
For Harness, Small Business Saturday is not only a chance to spotlight Trinkets N Threads, but to show off her brand new store at 229 W. Jefferson St.
Harness started with dreams of becoming an interior designer, but transitioned to opening a shop with one-of-a-kind home decor instead. She features more than 30 vendors offering a wide range of everything from cabinets and tables to accent pieces, in shabby chic, vintage, farmhouse and industrial styles.
Being able to feature products that have a story behind them is important, she said.
“It’s neat when people pick something up, and you’re able to tell them who made it and why they do it,” she said.
She has operated Trinkets N Threads in Franklin since October 2016. The store was founded in Shelbyville the year before, but Harness found a good opportunity in Franklin. She also was lured by the atmosphere and community that the city has fostered among downtown businesses.
“When I made the announcement that I was coming to Franklin, everyone was so welcoming,” she said. “Several businesses came in on my grand opening day to welcome me. As a small business owner, that’s important to have.”
Small Business Saturday is a nationwide campaign started by American Express to connect local stores with shoppers in their own community and to emphasize what makes small businesses unique.
Launched in 2010 to help local shops in the midst of the recession, it quickly was embraced by the business community. By 2012, Small Business Saturday was officially recognized in all 50 states.
The day has become one of the busiest for local stores. In 2016, participating businesses estimated that they made $15.4 billion in sales that day alone.
“These are smaller businesses. They don’t have a lot of advertising, and don’t have commercials. This is a way to get their name out, and help spread the word about these small businesses,” said Jennifer Hollingshead, founder and vice president of Restore Old Town Greenwood. “We’re just hoping to build some excitement into the weekend shopping.”
Throughout the county, businesses are gearing up for the party.
Toodleydoo Toys in Franklin will have surprise incentives for shoppers who stop in, as well as demonstrations of toys and games. Nearby Wild Geese Bookshop — the city’s only independent bookstore — features reading material of all kinds for adults, teens and children.
Inside Tagalong Farms Boutique & Gifts at 251 E. Jefferson St., shoppers can find stylish women’s clothing, funky T-shirts, precious children’s clothes, cool jewelry and other gift items. People can pick up a variety of beauty products made with goats milk, all produced locally at Tagalong Farms’ Fountaintown homestead.
“We make our soaps and lotions, and one of our specialties is our hoof-and-hand cream, which is good for people who have really dry skin. It’s extra moisturizing and helps clear that up,” said Jone Koch, owner of Tagalong Farms.
Koch came to Franklin in 2016 after learning more about the business community and finding a building that worked for her. She teamed up with her longtime friend Dr. Tobi Hough, an obstetrician and gynecologist based in Shelbyville, who also has in the past run a children’s clothing store. Her store, Wonderfully Made, is inside the Tagalong Farms boutique.
They have worked together to fashion an experience that appeals to a wide range of shoppers.
“We want to keep that boutique atmosphere where, if someone comes in, you don’t want everyone in town to feel like they’re buying the same pieces. You want to have unique pieces that are fun and represent their personalities,” Hough said.
Small Business Saturday is a chance to let new shoppers learn about that.
“Having an online store or things like that, you don’t get to meet the public like that. That’s why it’s so special that the small business shopping in Franklin, that’s the glue to success, the people who support and help us,” Koch said.
In an effort to capitalize on the themed day, many cities and towns have coordinated campaigns to bring people to local businesses. The Franklin Chamber of Commerce will feature coffee and donuts, shopping bags, incentives and other surprises during its Start Here Open House.
Restore Old Town Greenwood, a nonprofit group focused on promoting and revitalizing the city’s traditional downtown area, will have a kick-off event at Take Root Country Store with refreshments. The first 200 people get free canvas totes, with 50 of those stuffed with coupons and another 20 containing “Old Town Dollars,” in amounts from $5 to $20 to be used at Old Town stores.
“With a lot of cities doing these events, it makes it even more special, because it turns it into small business community event, rather than just individual businesses by themselves,” Eanes said. “They’re really trying to grow Old Town Greenwood into something more like Franklin has been doing for a while.”