Holiday shopping rolled on in Northern Berkshire on Saturday, but with a "smaller" focus than the big box blow-out of Black Friday. Small Business Saturday was embraced this year by a variety of merchants in the area, and while store owners reported mixed results on the day, the majority were still at least enjoying the traffic increase that usually comes with the Thanksgiving kick-off to the holiday shopping season.
A North Adams business reporting great success Saturday was Eagle Street's Persnickety Toys. "Today has been wonderful," said owner Monique Suters. "I even had two customers refuse the discount I'm offering because they wanted to support small businesses."
Suters, who celebrates 10 years of Persnickety Toys this month, was granting 20 percent off any one item for Small Business Saturday.
"I had hundreds of people in my shop today," she said. "There have been big families with several generations because everyone's home for Thanksgiving."
That "streaming, flowing" influx of customers marks a major increase over the average 20 to 30 visitors Suters sees each day before the holiday shopping season gets under way.
Started two years ago by American Express in conjunction with small independent businesses, Small Business Saturday is designed to encourage customers to patronize the smaller local options. The promotion is sandwiched between Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving when many large-store chains advertise deals to attract shoppers - and
"It's been very busy," Jill Balawender Reynolds, owner of Cheshire Glassworks on Route 8 in Cheshire, said Saturday. "There were 20 people in here while we were doing demos. ... [Small Business Saturday] is really good for business." Cheshire Glassworks marked the day by providing patrons demonstrations on making the store's variety of jewelry and decorative glass offerings.
"When you get to see something made right there, that's the total package," said Reynolds' husband, Jeff.
Jill's thoughts on the value of supporting local stores and taking advantage of Small Business Saturday mirrored the sentiments of several North County entrepreneurs.
I think it's a good cause," she said. "It's good for the Berkshire economy. I know I spend my money locally. ... It's a good time to be a small business. A lot of people are really conscious of supporting that," she said.
To the north in Adams, Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum Executive Director Colleen Janz said while the museum gift shop was offering 10 percent off purchases Saturday, turnout was low.
"We had 12 people, but I was hoping for more," she said, adding that the sale, along with a visit by Santa Claus, will also be offered Saturday, Dec. 1.
For the gift shop, Small Business Saturday wasn't only about the museum, but also the locals it showcases.
"For us, all of our products are made by local artisan women, so when you support us, you're supporting the artists," Janz said. "Especially in our economy, it's important to support your fellow man."
Elsewhere in the area, some businesses didn't see an uptick in customers Saturday, but still benefited from the shopping season boom.
"We've had about what we normally do on this weekend," said Kristin Hildabrand, a manager at Amy's Cottage on Water Street in Williamstown. That normal is 60 to 70 visitors and still double what the store sees at other times during the year.
The store issued a 20 percent discount on a purchase Saturday to those customers coming in with a receipt from another local business.
"It's about giving back to the community," Hildabrand said. "Most of the people who come in for the discount are local regulars. We do it to say thanks for coming in."