GREENFIELD — By the time Dawn Walsh flipped the shop’s sign from “closed” to “open,” there already were eager shoppers waiting in the parking lot.
Inside, Walsh and other employees at Penny’s Florist Home Decor & More were just as excited for the start of the seventh annual Small Business Saturday event in Greenfield, an effort by nearly 30 local businesses to entice residents to make their holiday purchases at mom-and-pop shops instead of big box retailers or online.
Small Business Saturday in Greenfield marked the beginning of a month-long effort by the same businesses to provide deals and events that will encourage local consumers to spend time and money in downtown Greenfield through the end of the year.
Indiana boasts more than half a million small businesses, according to the American Express Small Business Saturday website. More than 45 percent of Hoosiers worked for a small business in 2014, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
And those employees in Greenfield hoped the deals and freebies they offered this weekend would spur shoppers to buy their gifts from small businesses for the rest of the year, officials said.
Organizers expected a larger crowd at this year’s activities, printing 3,000 holiday passports, three times last year’s number, Greenfield Main Street executive director Shelley Swift said. For every $100 shoppers spent, the were entered into a drawing for gifts from local shops and restaurants, an incentive to invest their holiday money locally. Nearly 30 businesses are offering discounts or deals from Dec. 1 through 24 to keep bringing those shoppers back, in addition to other events hosted by Greenfield Main Street like holiday movies and carriage rides.
Shoppers concocted different strategies for taking advantage of the deals offered during Saturday’s event.
Lydia Swint started her day at the florist’s shop before ducking into Greenfield Chocolates, Ella June’s and several other downtown businesses, checking out deals and trying free samples at the chocolate shop. Swint’s good friend, Dana Cottey, owns Downtown Cuts, one of the businesses participating in Small Business Saturday and the subsequent December offers, so she wanted to support small local businesses, she said.
It was an enjoyable task, at least at the shop where she sampled sweets.
The chocolatier rarely offers samples, said owner Jayne Hoadley; the practice is costly but was worth a try for one day, she said. Employees of the shop prepared bite-size servings of some of the most popular offerings, from a crunchy peanut butter concoction to the chocolate, caramel and pecan turtles numbering among the shop’s most popular treats.
Swint enjoyed the samples and the deals, but her favorite part was the festive spirit bolstered by holiday music pumping through store speakers and twinkling lights wrapped around the decorations in downtown storefronts, she said.
She posed in front of the Christmas trees in the windows at Greenfield Chocolates with a “Shop Small” frame, peeking through a heart-shaped cutout surrounded by social media hashtags, including #shoplocal, the tag assigned to the national Small Business Saturday event, and #shopsmallgreenfieldIN, the tag used to organize and promote posts by local shoppers.
Several businesses participating in the weekend festivities encouraged shoppers to take photos and post them to Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites.
Denna Gundrum, co-owner of Penny’s Florist and organizer of Greenfield’s Small Business Saturday events, shared the photos throughout the day on Facebook.
Swift heard from several participating businesses that Saturday’s festivities went well, drawing in new customers and increasing sales. Swift doesn’t track sales or customers during the event, but some businesses said the deals brought customers in droves to their shops.
Amanda Kirchner, a co-owner of Ella June’s boutique, said the Small Business Saturday event blew her business’s usual daily sales out of the water. She made some 200 sales and entertained dozens of customers who hadn’t made purchases yet, she said.
Children’s gloves with cute animals on them were one of the most-purchased items on Saturday, she said: she had 45 pairs at the beginning of the day, but by the time her store closed, she had five pairs left.
Kirchner said she hopes the deals she and other businesses are offering through December will keep customers coming back, not only during the holiday shopping weeks but well into next year.