Statues on display on Wednesday at Merkaba Sol on Water Street in downtown Augusta are among the many eclectic items available during Small Business Saturday in various shops throughout central Maine this weekend. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

A number of central Maine commerce groups and shop owners are gearing up for the incoming holiday shopping season, arriving in full force on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday after Thanksgiving.

A handful of stores in downtown Augusta will offer discounts on their products and services on Saturday. Heather Pouliot, president of the Augusta Downtown Alliance board, said it was important for Augusta residents to support their downtown businesses.

“When people shop in downtown Augusta, they are helping their friends and neighbors put food on the table and support their families, as well as encouraging the development and future growth of our downtown,” she said. “Shopping small is an act that keeps on giving, and affects local people, just like you and me.”

One of those businesses is Merkaba Sol, an eclectic gift shop at 153 Water St., which also offers meditation and reiki services. Owner David Hopkins said his shop, which offers “gifts from around the world,” won’t likely be as busy as the big box stores on Saturday, but the city’s commerce groups and shops working together benefits his business greatly.

“It helps the merchants all work together,” he said. “We’re all here for the customers, no matter what we sell.”

Hopkins said the energy of downtown Augusta has changed since his shop opened a few years ago, which he credited to the Augusta Downtown Alliance’s active advocacy. He also said people are turning away from box stores and trying to shop more at their local businesses.

David Hopkins reaches up to hang the string from another hand-blown tree-themed glass ball while setting up a window display Wednesday at Merkaba Sol on Water Street in downtown Augusta. There are many eclectic items available during Small Business Saturday in various shops throughout central Maine this weekend. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“I think people are tired of the big box (stores) … telling you what you need to be,” Hopkins said. “Everything we sell has a story behind it.”

In Gardiner, the town’s Main Street group is promoting the city’s downtown shops for Small Business Saturday. Executive Director Melissa Lindley said the group is pushing its “Gift of Gardiner” gift cards this year. She said the gift card, which is good at more than 40 businesses in Gardiner, has existed since 2012, but has been revamped this year.

“It’s a great way to give a gift to someone that encourages shopping in downtown Gardiner,” Lindley said.

More than 30 locally owned businesses in Skowhegan will offer shoppers discounts and incentives, beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Shoppers at participating businesses will have the opportunity to enter a drawing for a $100 gift card to a local business of their choosing after making a purchase. Waterville Creates! is holding a similar event in that city’s downtown.

The Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce is not formally participating in any events Saturday, but Marketing Director Caroline Saban said it was promoting all of the individual events on the organization’s social media channels. She said Small Business Saturday serves as a “great reminder of all the small shops and businesses” in central Maine.

Businesses outside of traditional downtowns are also getting in on the fun. Pittston’s Doom Forest Distillery is offering a discount on its merchandise and offering special drink prices from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Owner Lynn Chadwick said the volume of customers could be lower outside of the larger downtowns, but any time more customers come to the tasting room is beneficial.

“I think it’s impossible to be as successful (as the downtown shops),” she said. “Anytime we can get new people in the tasting room, … we’re excited.”

Chadwick said her business, run out of a log cabin that has been in her family for a number of years, focuses on the individual experience and offering a “nice, relaxing, comfortable place to enjoy a drink.”

Doom Forest Distillery makes Chadwick’s Triple Distilled Maple Craft Spirits, which is available in numerous locations in Maine, New York and New Jersey. The tasting room, at 29 Chadwick Lane, is only open on Saturdays from 3 to 8 p.m.

Merkaba Sol, on Water Street in downtown Augusta, will be opened fpr Small Business Saturday this weekend. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

More than a dozen businesses in Farmington are participating in a Small Business Saturday event spearheaded by the Farmington Maine Downtown Association. For each business shoppers make purchases at, they will receive a raffle ticket for a trip for eight people in a pink Hummer limousine to Narrow Gauge Cinema.

The Hallowell Area Board of Trade, Vision Hallowell and Combined Benefits United are sponsors of a “Shop Local Saturday” event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Hallowell. A warming center will be set up at The Maine House, serving hot drinks and offering gift-wrapping stations.

Small Business Saturday was branded in 2010 by American Express, which aimed to support small businesses during the recession. The company said on its website that an estimated $103 billion has been spent on Small Business Saturday since its inception.


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