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Merchants in the Royal Square District in downtown York City — where King Street meets Duke Street — embraced the fun of Small Business Saturday.

"We have a secret password, so if you know that secret password, then you get 20% off your entire purchase," said Lauren Rae, owner of dark antiques and oddities shop The Dark Parlour.

The parlour opened over the  summer, so  Saturday, Nov. 30, was Rae's first time engaging in the post-Thanksgiving tradition as a shop owner.

Created by American Express during the recession in 2010, Small Business Saturday is meant to recognize and lend support to small businesses and, in turn, keep money in local communities.

Based on company surveys,  customers have spent an estimated $103 billion during those nine Saturdays alone.

It was the second of three nationally recognized shopping holidays, beginning with Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving and ending with Cyber Monday for online discounts and deals.

Rae pulled out all the stops, offering free gifts to the customers lined up Saturday morning and free samplings of Dead Sled coffee with a Mexican roast called "Vampira."

And she was not the only one. Throughout downtown York, small business owners catered to their customers.

Many offered freebies, such as "swag bags," discount coupons to the first customers to spend a certain amount, buttons and stickers.

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Merchants in York City's Royal Square district celebrate Small Business Saturday with freebies and fun to thank customers. Lindsay C. VanAsdalan, The York Dispatch

More: York County shops to visit on Small Business Saturday

"When you're able to give a physical item to a customer, that gives an element of fun," said Molly York, owner of home goods store Molly's Follies, in Royal Square.

Her shop's swag bags are only offered once a year, and each year the design is different, so shoppers are getting something one-of-a-kind, she said.

Customers out and about on Saturday were loving the selections downtown.

"We like the antiques and the foods," said Cane Anderson, of Lower Windsor Township, whose family came out for Small Business Saturday.

His wife, Ashley, said they just walked through Central Market with their son Atticus, 7, and tried one of everything.  

Some of downtown's businesses were new to the York scene, while others were returning, such as Elizabeth & West Fashion House, which just had its grand reopening in the city's Market District Friday.

And for the first time this year, the Parliament Arts Organization in Royal Square partnered with York Flea to bring its "Merry Market at the Bond," which is not usually held at this time of year.

York Flea organizer Kristen Dempwolf said doing the market — now in its fourth year — on Small Business Saturday fit with Parliament's mission to empower artists.

"Many are small micro businesses that don't have a storefront," she said, and the market will also help bring traffic to Royal Square, as it tends to be heavier in the Market District.

Callie Hocter, of Philadelphia, was in town with her boyfriend, who grew up in York City, and said she loves going to small business events because she thinks money should stay in local communities.

"I do a little happy dance when they see their sales at the end of the day," she said.

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