MAINE, USA — As the holiday season kicks into full gear, stores and shops around Maine are ready to be busy for the next few weeks. Communities held different Small Business Saturday events to encourage folks to shop small this year.
If you’ve been shopping in downtown Saco this time of year, you might have heard about ‘Saco Bucks’. Each ‘buck’ is worth $5 and can be used at participating businesses. All ‘bucks’ can be picked up at The Saco Scoop and the promotion runs through December 8.
“What we’ve done is we get more people downtown, we expose them to some of our businesses they may or may not have seen before and business starts to happen,” Richard Briggs, Executive Director of Saco Main Street said.
Like all small businesses in Maine and around the country, it was a challenging year and a half as they continued to maneuver their way through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But with community support, Briggs said the few vacant businesses have all been filled recently by new stores.
“During the pandemic we actually had four new businesses open up in our downtown. Who would have figured? Briggs added. “Well again, our downtown really makes our whole town thrive.”
Cynthia Chadwick-Granger is one Saco resident that supports her local businesses. She herself understands how tough it has been for shop owners as she owns ‘Vows For You By Cynthia’, a wedding ceremony business.
“It’s all about the personal visit and I will be that way all my life,” she said. “This is downtown, it’s our people, you go in, you shop, you see them.”
Businesses in other towns also saw a steady flow of customers Saturday. Sarah Cronin owns Rustic Arrow in Freeport and she said the early stages of the holiday season have been busy.
“Consumers are more conscious about where they’re spending their dollars,” Cronin added.
According to Visit Freeport’s Community Relations Manager Margaret Hoffman, Freeport continues to grow as a space for small businesses.
“We’re probably not the first town that comes to mind when you’re thinking of small businesses,” Hoffman said. “But the reality is, for every national brand, we have two locally owned businesses here in town.”
Cronin added that the mix of outlet stores and local shops brings in plenty of tourists, which helps local businesses.
“Freeport has become a lot more small business-friendly in the last couple of years. You’re seeing small businesses pop up all over the place. It’s awesome,” she said.
More than thirty shops and businesses in Skowhegan offer special deals and offer to start Small Business Saturday and lasting all week long, through December 4th.
The River Roads Artisan Gallery is a co-op featuring the work of 28 local artists. This week, the gallery is raffling off works donated by some of the artists. Shoppers receive a free raffle entry with any purchase.
The artists there are all located within a 50-mile radius of the store.
Paula Phillips is one of the artists who sells her photography and knitted items at the store. The products she knits come from wool sheared from her sheep.
“I have my wool spun and dyed and then I create it into mittens and bags and slippers,” Phillips said.
Nancy Donker sells her pottery at the shop. She said she loves her local customers to who she’s been selling her bowls and mugs for about 30 years.
“It inspires me to make more because I want to please our customers and I want people to enjoy eating out of a homemade pot,” Donker said.
Another advantage to shopping small, according to the Bangor Region Chamber Commerce President Deb Neuman, is there is no supply chain issue affecting inventory.
“Those products aren’t stuck on a cargo ship. They’re right here,” Neuman said.
For antique lovers, Hilltop Antiques is discounting all store items at 15% off this week. Greg Salisbury, the owner of the store, said the store spans 36 rooms across three floors.
“It’s good for me. It’s good for business and it’s good for the town I mean I love to see it,” Salisbury said.
For more information on all the deals being offered this week in Skowhegan, click here.
Many businesses have also upgraded their platform, Neuman said, and now have online shopping options so folks can access stores that way if they choose.
Shopping small also helps keep money in the local economy, Neuman added. Many local businesses buy and resell products from other Maine companies, so if you buy locally made products you’re supporting two companies at once.
Gift cards are another great way to support businesses, restaurants, museums, and theaters Neuman said it draws in new or existing customers.
“I’m always spending more than the value of that gift card,” she added.