BANGOR, Maine — It hasn't been a challenge to find parking in downtown Bangor since the coronavirus pandemic came to the region in March. The increase in parking availability and lack of traffic hasn't been helping small businesses in the city.
But on 'Small Business Saturday,' the spots were all taken, the shops were as full as possible, and many masked Mainers supported their local stores as the holiday shopping season kicked into full swing.
As you check things off your list this year, it's more important than ever to support small businesses, even after December 25.
“Shopping in a local business is just as easy, possibly easier than shopping online this year," Downtown Bangor Coordinator and Cultural Liason Betsy Lundy said. “The holiday season is really the make it or break it the season for small businesses.”
Shoppers like Terri Adam makes it a tradition to do all her holiday shopping at local stores.
“It’s not just to support them, but they have some of the best gifts, the best gift ideas. Their selection is much different than the mainstream which is what I like to get," Adam added.
One of those shops she supported was Maine Jewelry & Art. Heather Barter began working at the store a few months ago but she has collaborated with the business as an artist for years.
She said the summer tourism season and the time around the holidays are crucial for her, and every, business to make it throughout the year.
This year has brought its challenges, but it has allowed the store to evolve its online presence.
“[Customers] can shop pretty much the entire store from the comfort of their home," Barter said. “With everything so up in the air during the pandemic, adapting to these unique circumstances has been very, very important.”
The store will get a lot of foot and internet traffic Saturday, but Barter wants to remind people that the lull periods for small businesses happen right after the holidays and a bad few weeks in January and February can be tragic.
“Having customers continue to shop local is important to us and important to our communities," she said.
Deb Neuman is the Presiden of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and has a window view of downtown so she was able to watch all the action Saturday.
“We really should make every day 'Small Business Day' because businesses, small businesses have really been affected by this pandemic," Neuman said.
Neuman said the Chamber has been encouraging folks to socialize online when they shop locally so more people can discover new stores or new products.
She too is worried about small business success this winter.
“We’re concerned, the first quarter of the year is generally a slow time for retailers.” Maine’s economy is small business. We want them around for a long time, forever.”
An idea she has for Christmas shoppers is to buy gift cards. Not only do stores get revenue from the purchase of the card but Neuman suggested many folks tend to spend more money than the amount on the card.
As we continue to navigate through this ongoing pandemic our neighborhood stores are among the hardest impacted. Remember to shop local and shop small this holiday season and for seasons to come.