Locals participate in Shop Small Business Saturday

Daily Journal, TUPELO – One theme resonated throughout downtown Tupelo on Saturday – shop local.

Residents flocked downtown to support local businesses during the Shop Small Business Saturday event.

The nationally sponsored event was started by American Express in 2010 as a strategy to encourage shoppers to buy local during the holidays. The effort was coordinated locally by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.

Sarah Stewart, program associate with Downtown Tupelo, manned a welcome station at the corner of Main and Spring streets handing out “shopping passports” to be stamped by stores customers shop in, as well as free canvas shopping bags.

She said any business can sign up for the event and American Express will send promotional materials, from shopping bags to stickers, welcome mats and pet bandanas.

American Express sent the Main Street Association welcome mats, balloons and flag banners to be displayed outside local businesses weeks ago for the event.

“It’s an event to say, the day after Black Friday, instead of big stores, let’s dedicate one day where you shop locally,” Stewart said.

Several local retailers like Reeds, About the South and Farmhouse have signed up for the event before on their own.

“What I’ve been trying to encourage is whether you’re Christmas shopping or just going out to lunch, do it locally,” Stewart said. “Take one day, if you’re going to spend money, into your community.”

Farmhouse has been located on Main Street in downtown Tupelo for nearly four years.

The furniture and décor store offered free giveaway gifts to customers who could find “shop small” signs around the store during the event and had free brownies and mimosas set up for early morning shoppers.

Farmhouse sales associate Reid Caldwell said the small business sale had its benefits.

Caldwell said companies on Main Street will often network with each other and do collaborations, an experience that is difficult to replicate with competing chain stores.

“There’s something great about being downtown and seeing everybody gear up and get ready...the people from the restaurants come say hey we’ll come in our break and look at y’all’s stuff and tell us their specials,” she said.

Caldwell said the stores on Main Street will often collaborate to keep things interesting for customers.

In the summer, Farmhouse collaborated with Popsy Popsicles, taking over each other’s Instagram accounts for the day.

During that time, Farmhouse collaborated with Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, taking over the bar one day to make Farmhouse-inspired cocktails.

“It was a lot of fun, not just or two, but three businesses all working together,” she said.

Tupelo native Judy McGaugh brought her niece Jewel Johns to the event early Saturday morning to check out gift options at About the South.

“We came out to support local businesses,” McGaugh said. “And really it’s the first time I’ve had the day off to do some shopping.”

McGaugh said Johns was on the search for a Christmas gift for her boyfriend.

“I love local shops and downtown,” Johns said.

Swirlz has been in Tupelo for over a decade, but moved downtown in 2008. Kim Root and Shelly Daniel worked in health care before opening the paper store, which is a paper company and monogramming business.

“These small stores are what make up Tupelo and if they were not here, people would miss them. But if you don’t support them, they’re not going to be here. It’s not a hobby, it’s a business,” Swirlz store partner Kim Leathers said. “We want to keep everything we can in Tupelo because if you having thriving downtowns and businesses it brings people to the city.”

Leathers said the fourth quarter of the year is a make or break time for small businesses.

“That quarter pushes you into the next year,” she said.

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Sarah StewartComment