Downtown York gears up for Small Business Saturday

Greek by heritage, John Dripas grew up in the York area. He sells balsamic vinegars, infused olive oils and olives imported from Greece in his Central Market stand.

Business has been slow for him this year, but he hopes it will pick up during the holidays, noting that 35 percent of his yearly business comes from Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25.

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Dripas is not the only small business owner who counts on the holiday weekend. For many, it is the biggest day of the year.

Kimman's Co. owner Caroline S. Morris called Small Business Saturday "phenomenal." She said the shop, open for 14 years, can do as much as one month of business in a day, selling seasonal and holiday tableware, gifts, cards and specialty foods.

"People come down, shake my hand and say, 'Thank you for being here,'" she said.

"We probably make most of our money at the end of the year, between November and December, " said Mike Leland, of Croweo Food and Stuff in Central Market, open five years in April.

Amanda Axe, a partner in business with her mother, Cherie Anne Mansberger, at Cherie Anne's Designs — which offers items such as handcrafted jewelry and knitwear, gourmet teas, candles and healing oils — said they can't really compete with big box store discounts on Black Friday, but people always turn out for Small Business Saturday.

"Fingers crossed it will be a good year, 'cause you never know," said Melissa Grove, owner of clothing boutique Sweet Melissa's. 

Big chunk: Retailers see between 18 percent and 27 percent of their annual sales coming in November and December, according to the National Retail Federation.

An annual consumer survey of more then 7,000 adults across the U.S. showed more than 40 percent of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers plan to shop on Small Business Saturday, and 76 percent of those are shopping specifically with small businesses in mind, said NRF representative Katherine Cullen.

Katherine Wood and Kevin Snee pick through cut flowers at Sweet Annie's Mobile Flowers in Central Market, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. Sweet Annie's is one of several downtown businesses taking part in Small Business Saturday.   John A. Pavoncello photo

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Joan Freitag and Lori Markel, of Spring Garden Township, and Jan Trattner, of Springettsbury Township, are always coming to Central Market on Saturdays.

"I'm here practically every Saturday," Freitag said. 

They also like going to small businesses downtown, such as Sweet Melissa's, Indigo Bleu, a bohemian clothing boutique, and Kimman's.

Downtown: Silas Chamberlin, CEO of York City's Downtown Inc, said there has been an uptick in small businesses popping up downtown, with 38 new businesses opening last year — a record year, he said, that has already been surpassed by the 41 that have opened so far this year. 

More than 100 have opened in the past three years, and almost all of them are local, independent small businesses, he said.

Typically, one in three new businesses will close in a year, but Chamberlin said almost all that have opened in the city within the past few years are still in business.

The state has 1 million small businesses, employing 2.5 million workers and accounting for more than 99 percent of all employers in Pennsylvania, according to the York County Economic Alliance.

YCEA president and CEO Kevin Schreiber said micro businesses — independent retailers, smaller boutiques, mom-and-pops — tend to have a lot of success from Small Business Saturday.

Consumers demand craft, authenticity and locally made products, which extends to food as well, Schreiber said. He encourages all to buy local because it has a "tremendous ripple effect."

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Shoppers: Some shoppers do not feel as though they shop small that often.

"Not as much as I dream of doing," said Donna Hake, who also works at a small business, DOCEO Office Solutions in York City.

But she loves the idea of small business personalization and said she probably ends up shopping small more than she realizes.

Cindy Croft, visiting Tanya Merchant in East Manchester Township, says she does not shop small very much but probably does so more around the holidays. 

Chamberlin said this time of year is definitely important. Small businesses are counting on a lot of people coming through for the holidays, but events such as First Fridays — a monthly initiative to celebrate downtown businesses through special events, promotions and entertainment — also have helped generate more revenue during the year, and that's the goal, he said. 

Reach Lindsay C. VanAsdalan at or on Twitter at @lcvanasdalan