WATERTOWN — Residents in the north country can’t go much more than a couple of blocks without seeing a locally owned small business, and no day is more important to small businesses than the day after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday.
Julie M. Lichtenauer, who is originally from the Bay Area in California, and co-owns Crosstown Julie Brown ReMarket in the Washington Street Plaza across from Watertown High School, said that in prior years Small Business Saturday has been their busiest day of the year.
“It really is the kickoff to the holiday season, and it shows all of our local community, what local has to offer,” she said.
Mrs. Lichtenauer called her store a “host” to other local sellers, as it sells goods from about 40 small businesses.
Starting in downtown Watertown, Mrs. Lichtenauer said that moving into Washington Street has worked really well, particularly for parking.
She said she was told that people would pass by and say they would stop some other time.
“Local, small businesses, you can’t pass them by. You have to stop,” she said.
She said that she and her husband decided to become small business owners when her husband retired and wanted to become his own boss.
“With the help of community support, our store was born,” she said.
Downtown, Paddock Art & Antiques calls the historic Paddock Arcade home.
Catherine A. Ellsworth, co-owner of Paddock Art & Antiques, said more people in the community will come out and look for small businesses to support this weekend on Small Business Saturday.
“As a small business, we exist because of people who support us,” she said.
The business has been open for 15 years, and has been part of other shops in the north country as well as traveling shows.
“15 years, I guess it’s doing OK,” she said.
She said some people are coming in because of the hype of Small Business Saturday, the vendors, and to see the renovations inside the Paddock Arcade, which are slated to be completed this weekend.
Jake Johnson Properties, which owns the Paddock Arcade, posted on its Facebook page that there will be a “Grand Re-opening of the Paddock Arcade” from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday.
Ms. Ellsworth said she anticipates that when the renovations are complete, it will be “fabulous.”
“We are getting more retail people on the first level,” she said. “That’s what we’ve always wanted because the more retail people you have, the more people come in and discover you.”
She said all of the empty first-floor spaces are being rented out, but are not yet occupied.
There are three owners, the only three people who work at the Art & Antiques shop, and normally, one person works per day. That is not the case on Small Business Saturday, when all three will work because of how busy it typically gets.
“I wish it were more frequently like that, but we appreciate when it is,” she said.
All three co-owners have items for sale inside the shop.
Ms. Ellsworth said that originally the three owners liked to collect antiques, but began selling pieces and going to antique shows during the summer.
“It just evolved into that. We enjoy doing it,” she said.
She said that some of the antiques end up being part of their personal collection, while others are purchased to be resold.
Art is also available from Ms. Ellsworth, who does pottery; her daughter Claire Ames, who does charcoal drawings; and her husband Lee Ellsworth, who does photography.
Small Business Saturday is not so much an event as a movement, according to Benjamin R. Dixon, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
“Everybody knows about Black Friday, but SBS is basically a movement to try and redirect some of those consumer dollars into small and locally owned businesses,” he said. “It’s a way to encourage people to ‘shop small’ during the holiday season.”
When people keep their money local, Mr. Dixon compared it to a form of community investment, whereby everyone in the community benefits as those dollars recirculate into the local economy.
“That’s one of the major reasons to shift one’s spending from multinational, large corporations engaged in Black Friday to small, locally owned shops through Small Business Saturday,” Mr. Dixon said.
He said it’s also important because many local shops depend on the holiday shopping spree for profitability. “This season is one of their greatest sources of revenue generation,” he said.
The chamber is doing what it can to raise awareness for the day as well as the movement.
“First off, we’re spreading the word,” Mr. Dixon said. “We’re also allowing our member businesses to share deals and promos through our website, and we’ll rebroadcast that information to local and regional markets.”
The chamber is encouraging local businesses to offer deals and promotions in order to attract local spending.
“Shout out how your business supports the communities we call home,” he advised.
One of the local organizations celebrating Small Business Saturday is SLC Arts, 6 Raymond St., Potsdam.
The arts center has planned a full day of events.
“Small Business Saturday is one of those events around the holidays after Thanksgiving that’s celebrated across the country,” SLC Arts Executive Director Maggie M. McKenna said. “We will be celebrating our one-year anniversary in the arts center space as part of SBS, and there will be all sorts of fun activities there throughout the day.”
In Lewis County, Kim Gracey, owner/operator of the West Martinsburg Mercantile on West Martinsburg Road since June 2019, said that they, too, are normally pretty busy on Small Business Saturday.
“Which is good,” she said.
In the store, they sell pottery, potteryware, woodcrafts, local honey, local syrup, local mixes, local jelly, crochet items, local tea, local cheese and so much more.
“It’s just a really wide range of items,” she said.
Ms. Gracey said she remembers going to the store as a child before it closed, and wanted to reopen it.
The building was purchased in 2001, but she wanted to wait until she retired to open the store.
She said she feels it’s important to have local sellers at her store because of how small the business community is in Lewis County.
“Why wouldn’t you want to support your family, friends, neighbors?” she said. “It’s great to do your big box stores, Amazon, or whatever. But you get a personal touch with every item that someone’s hand locally is making, and you can’t buy that from China.”
“We strongly support small, local businesses,” she said.