WATERTOWN — Shop owner Marylois Queal could only be optimistic about this year’s holiday shopping season just by the way Small Business Saturday went for her this weekend.

Mrs. Queal, owner of the Loft 315 Denim Co. store, had a steady flow of customers during the city of Watertown’s version of Small Business Saturday.

“It was nice to see,” she said. “It gives us hope for the rest of the holiday season.”

Watertown First, a local group that helps boost and raise the visibility of local business in downtown Watertown, and the Watertown Downtown Business Association put together the shop local event on Saturday to get people out shopping at small businesses.

For the first time in its seven years, craft vendors set up shop in two locations along Public Square, the main event in the historic Paddock Arcade and a block down in a storefront that formerly housed the Downtown Julie Brown remarket store in the Franklin Building.

Last year, the local Small Business Saturday event had to resort to a virtual offering because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this year, it was back to people getting out to look for those special Christmas gifts.

“It was awesome,” said Amanda Stickel, Watertown First’s executive director.

Santa Claus and the Grinch were there to entertain children, while the adults browsed a myriad of gifts from two dozen vendors. The Northern Blend Chorus also performed.

Erica Manning-Orvin and Michael Myers manned a table from North Country Welcome Center Taste NY. They were selling gift baskets containing a variety of products made in the north country.

Mr. Myers made the message clear in six words.

“Shop local and choose New York,” he said.

Linda Gibbs has sold her “ecofriendly” crocheted hats, fingerless gloves and other items at all the other Small Business Saturday events during past years.

She calls it “a community event” because merchants, families and neighbors get together for it every year.

“It’s a way the whole community can shine,” she said.

And that’s why Jessica Hoppel and her two daughters, Olivia, 10, and Maci, 7, were there.

After stopping to see the big guy in the red suit with white beard, they stopped to see what vendors had to offer.

“So we can help local businesses,” Ms. Hoppel said.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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