HALLOWELL — The mugs at the Holiday Pottery Shop caught the eye of Christina Juarez, of Sidney, who was out shopping specifically to support small businesses on Saturday.

“I am Christmas shopping for my family,” she said, holding up two mugs. “I’m getting (one) for my husband and one for me.”

He will be drinking from the one with etched ocean waves, she from the one with bumblebees tracing the circumference “because I couldn’t say, ‘No.'”

She was still hunting for a third.

She said she and her sister, Ruth Juarez of West Gardiner, among a dozen or so others, organized a gift swap for Christmas.

“We decided this year we’re going to do a mug swap and support local businesses,” she said. “I’m sending everyone here today.”

Visitors to downtown Skowhegan on Small Business Saturday got their tickets punched for holiday shopping with the “Passport to Savings” promotion from Main Street Skowhegan.

Shop local, shop small was the theme — and make sure you have your passport ready.

Each passport is a booklet with pages from each participating business as part of “a bag of swag” given out to participating businesses in Skowhegan, said Main Street Executive Director Kristina Cannon.

The program is somewhat unique to Skowhegan, Cannon said.

“They’ll pick up a passport and go to one of the participating locations and make a purchase,” Cannon said. “They’ll fill out the ticket with their name and phone number and we’ll go around on Monday and pick up all the tickets at all of the 44 participating businesses and draw for two prizes.”

The more tickets a shopper has, the better chance he or she has to win the two prizes offered this year — a $100 gift certificate and a $50 certificate for any local business, Cannon said. Prizes are donated by Bangor Savings.

“Every business is offering some sort of incentive — there’s 44 or more different incentives,” Cannon said.

“It’s ranging from 10 to 25 percent off — some are giving mystery gifts with a certain amount of monetary purchase,” added Mary Haley, Main Street’s project coordinator.

Back in Hallowell, The Holiday Pottery Shop, which is in its 10th year, is an annual pop-up business sponsored by the Central Maine Clay Artists

This year it features the work of 12 potters, including Diane Harwood of Winthrop, who was tending shop on Saturday, and 11 guests, including Lauren Olson, whose prints of individual herbs — blueborage, yarrow, rose hips, lavender and mint — were inspired by her time spent working on Tender Soles Farm in Richmond. Olson was helping at the shop as well on Saturday.

A couple of shoppers had waited outside for the 8 a.m. opening of Berry & Berry Floral’s Water Street shop in Hallowell. “They specifically said they were here to support small business Saturday,” said Aurilla Holt, who co-owns both that florist shop and one under the same name in Gardiner with her husband John Holt. “They bought a couple of holiday ornaments.”

The shop promotes other small businesses as well, selling candy from Kennebec Chocolates in Augusta, jarred candles from Calley Hill Candles in Hamden, and jewelry from Ellie’s Earrings in Portland.

The Holts have a family business, with daughter Jennifer working there as well. Her teacup chihuahua Chloe, the shop mascot, was attired in a fleece-lined red winter jacket and ready to greet new customers with a tail wag.

“I’m very grateful the weather is cooperating,” Aurilla Holt said. “It’s a beautiful day to walk and shop locally.”

Jaylynn Tenney, 6, of Sidney and her grandmother Angie Newhouse, stopped into Scrummy Afters candy shoppe, to help support local businesses. Newhouse said the two were also heading to the Marketplace at Augusta as well as to the Red Barn Restaurant and Lisa’s Restaurant and Catering in Augusta to get gift certificates as well.

Niesje McKeown and her aunt, Suzanne Daigle, had traveled down to central Maine from near the Canadian border. They two had begun shopping very early Friday, spent the night and were returning with a car full of presents on Saturday, McKeown to Baileyville and Daigle to St. Stephen, New Brunswick. “We do it every year,” McKeown said.

“I have three grandkids,” Daigle said. “I got everything I was looking for. I had a list and I didn’t always stick to it. I went above and beyond.”

The “Shop Small” campaign for the Saturday after Thanksgiving is promoted by The National Federation of Independent Business and features a partnership with American Express.

David Clough, the federation’s Maine State director, said in a press release, “It is a day to celebrate and support the small, family-run businesses that do so much throughout the year to support our community. And instead of dealing with temporary workers who don’t know the merchandise, you’re likely to deal directly with the owner, who has a vested interest not only in selling you something that day but in making you want to come back time and again throughout the year.”

According to the organization, last year some “112 million shoppers patronized small businesses throughout the country” and those shoppers spent $15.4 billion.

Clough said that generally money spent in a small business remains within that community. “When you shop at a chain store, most of the money goes back to some corporate office somewhere, but when you shop on Main Street, that money stays on Main Street.”

Owners of two Augusta small businesses in particular said they expected an uptick in trade on Saturday specifically because of promotional efforts by the trade group and American Express.

Betsy Curtis, of Fairfield, owner of Betsy’s Home Decor, Furniture and Formal Wear on Water Street, Augusta, said she also had been advertising special events in connection with the “Shop Small” campaign, and holding up a cloth bag with the slogan.

Kim Schofield, of Wilton, the sole proprietor of Uncorked wine&cheese, on Civic Center Drive, Augusta, had shopped at another small business, Calico Patch in Farmington, on her way to her own shop.

The NFIB really tries to represent microbusinesses, Schofield said.

“I will have people I see once or twice a year,” she said. “They get correspondence from American Express telling them what local businesses accept the card. I think Amex does a lot to support this day.”

Her shop had been closed for Thanksgiving and on Friday as well. “I learned a long time ago that people don’t need wine and cheese (on Friday),” she said. “They’re all out shopping.”

She found Paula Weber, of Augusta, waiting for her to open on Saturday. Weber was out selecting wine for a gift for her mother-in-law and a special beer for her husband. She said she liked to patronize local small businesses. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Back in Skowhegan, over at The Bankery and Skowhegan Fleuriste, shoppers fueled up on coffee and free samples of breakfast treats early Saturday to get ready to hit the stores.

“I’m shopping for Christmas and I’m shopping locally,” said Lynda Quinn, of Skowhegan, a former town selectwoman and county commissioner. “I believe in shopping locally and I found when I did this two years ago I hit every store and I shopped for absolutely everybody — it was perfect. Now I do it every year. This is my Christmas shopping day and I’m done. I don’t have to travel. I don’t have to fight crowds and I don’t do online shopping anyway.”

Quinn’s shopping partner at The Bankery, former Skowhegan Town Manager Patricia Dickey, said she, too has shopped Small Business Saturday in Skowhegan since it first started three years ago.

“I’m getting everything today — all my shopping,” Dickey said. “Because I shop here anyway so I know what I want so I’ll go down here and around there and end up at Red Roof Relics. They’re having discounts at most every store.”

The shoppers said they also were interested in Main Street’s “I Love Skowhegan” gift boxes, with 16 different products from local businesses and a board game called Skowopoly, a variation of the popular Monopoly game.

Russakoff Jewelers — where Saturday’s motto was “A hardware store for women,” is the program’s primary sponsor in Skowhegan this year, which has allowed Main Street to do some radio advertising and some Facebook-boosted posts to help get the word out, Cannon said, after delivering fist-fulls of blue and white “Shop Small” balloons to all the Passport participants.

Small Business Saturday is a registered trademark of American Express corporation.

“The goal of Small Business Saturday is to help bring business into our locally owned merchants,” she said earlier this week. “We really want Skowhegan to be known for this Passport to Savings Program and so we want people from all over to come to Skowhegan on Small Business Saturday and purchase locally.”

Cannon said other communities participate in Small Business Saturday, but not many do the passport promotion, making Skowhegan more a shopping destination.

Cannon said last year during Small Business Saturday there were 816 purchases made, more than twice the 383 purchases in 2015. Two local businesses had their best sales day ever last year.

Doreen Poulin, owner of Key Appliance on Water Street in the heart of the downtown business district, said big items were selling well on Small Business Saturday.

“We’ve been very busy today,” Poulin said. “It’s been super busy — this created a lot of traffic today. It’s really good. We’re giving out the Small Business Saturday bags as well our own Key Appliance shopping bags. Everything is 10 to 30 percent off.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]
Twitter: @betadams

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow