By Nate Hadley
Small Business Saturday is Nov. 28, and local businesses in Sylva and Dillsboro are gearing up for a big day.
Shoppers can expect discounts, free samples, sidewalk sales, extended hours and ample, free parking. Business owners also seek to offer the safest experience possible in these times of a global pandemic.
Lauren Baxley, co-owner of Baxley’s Chocolates, said that making enough now is especially important because she does not know what challenges will arise with the ongoing pandemic.
Their online delivery and those committed to shopping local during these times help her business stay afloat, she said.
“We’ll extend our hours to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays until Christmas,” Baxley said. “As far as changes with COVID, we offer pick-up outside and have extended our online shipping quite a lot. We also look forward to having people coming in and wearing their masks. We’ve made changes in our shop, putting up plexiglass and sanitizing hourly. I anticipate it will be a good weekend for us, and we can keep people safe and still get a lot of good shopping done for the holidays.”
The Main Street Sylva Association encourages businesses to extend their hours after Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving.
Holiday music will be provided throughout the Home for the Holidays season starting on Nov. 27. Downtown shoppers and diners can expect to hear holiday music on Fridays in downtown Sylva from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Nov. 27, Dec. 4, 11 and 18. Music will also play on Small Business Saturday from noon to 4:30 p.m.
In years past, businesses have given out free drinks and held other promotional activities for Small Business Saturday.
Kyle Coleman, co-owner of Mountain Flora, said his business will participate this year.
“For Small Business Saturday, we’re going to be doing 15 percent off everything in the store, and we’re also going to be doing different flavored tea samples,” said Coleman.
In Dillsboro, there will be a sidewalk and porch sale with discounts up to 50 percent off.
“Dillsboro is delighted to take part in Shop Small Saturday,” Dogwood Crafters Director Brenda Anders said.
“Always considered a small town, Dillsboro takes this opportunity to invite visitors to come shop ‘big’ and check out new items available in a walkabout town instead of hitting the malls and heavy traffic.”
Due to the pandemic, Small Business Saturday may look a little different, but The Main Street Sylva Association is working to provide a COVID-safe experience.
“We have already distributed flyers around West Main and Mill streets in Sylva and have a social media campaign underway to encourage shopping locally this holiday season,” MSSA team member Kelly Donaldson said. “Of course, the challenge this year is to really encourage being COVID safe.”
By being COVID safe, Donaldson means social distancing, wearing a mask, and frequently sanitizing hands, he said.
“We are doing the best we can to have a spirited holiday season, but a safe one under the COVID-19 guidelines, restrictions and suggestions provided by our local public health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Roy Cooper,” Donaldson said.
Small Business Saturday began in 2010 during the Great Recession. It’s an important day for many businesses around the country because it launches their busiest shopping season.
The event has been a huge success in the past. According to the Small Business Administration, $19.6 billion was spent at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday last year, a $2 billion increase from 2018.
Small businesses employ more than 40 percent of North Carolina’s private workforce, according to the SBA.
Sylva Herald intern Nate Hadley is a senior at Western Carolina University.