Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 6:42 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shop Local Saturday

Forget about 'Black Friday,' Homer businesses remind holiday shoppers about all the treasures available here

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

Before the Thanksgiving meal has had time to settle, before the sun rises the morning of Nov. 25, holiday gift-buying fever has struck. So popular is the day that it has its own name: Black Friday, a nod to profits that catapult businesses out of the red and into the black. A Black Friday website helps shoppers find sales. An iPhone app helps deal-hunters map out their shopping sprees weeks in advance.

Eager to get shoppers' attention, some businesses, like Toys R Us and Wal-Mart, even open their doors late on Thanksgiving evening.

What are small businesses in small towns like Homer supposed to do?

The answer lies in playing to their strengths, something Homer businesses are preparing to do by combining a new event on Nov. 26 — "Shop Local Saturday" — with some traditional sales and holiday activities.

"We're hoping to point out to people what's available locally, to think twice before going up the road for the holiday shopping weekend," said Jenny Stroyeck of Homer Bookstore, where the idea for "Shop Local Saturday" originated. "It's sort of a movement in response to 'Black Friday,' where people open up and stand in line. Saturday has become a local business alternative."

The bookstore will celebrate "Shop Local Saturday" with a sale. The weekend also kicks off the store's holiday schedule, with Sunday hours until Christmas.

Kate Mitchell of NOMAR said the charm of Homer's small businesses draws out-of-town shoppers.

"We have people drive down from Soldotna to shop in real stores because they lost all of their good little retail stores when box stores came in," said Mitchell. "They enjoy those specialty stores with very unique, special things for gifts, and the people who own them personally and have pride in that ownership."

With a nod to the traditional, the Pratt Museum combines its annual Stocking Stuffer Party for youngsters with a sale in the Museum Store for adults on Nov. 26. Between 1-4 p.m., there are holiday crafts and a visit with Santa for children. From noon-5 p.m., adults can take advantage of a 20 percent sale on "Arm Candy," bags made from recycled candy wrappers, or place orders for selected Folkmanis puppets or Jay Greene jewelry.

"We're doing special orders like we used to do for old-fashioned Christmases," said Jennie Engebretsen, the museum's retail and visitor services manager.

In addition to Homer's "Shop Local Saturday," American Express has designated Nov. 26 as "Small Business Saturday" and Homer's Jeans is making it possible for shoppers to take advantage of the offer, said Liz Villarreal, manager of Homer's Jeans. Card holders register their cards online and get a one-time $25 credit on their statements when making a Nov. 26 purchase of $25 or more at a small business. Homer's Jeans is are one of 117 participating small businesses listed at facebook.com/ShopSmall in the 99603 zip code area.

"Small Business Saturday" was founded as a national initiative by American Express in 2010 to "help address small businesses' greatest need: driving sales," according to a press release from the credit card company. "It was also an occasion to recognize the importance of small business and their vital contributions to the economy, job creation and local communities." All small businesses, not just those using or accepting American Express, can participate.

In addition, the first 40 customers at Homer's Jeans on Nov. 25 get a free pair of socks with their purchase. On Nov. 26, a purchase comes with a free velvet scarf. The store is open seven days a week. Winter Sunday hours are noon-5 p.m.

Karin Marks at Art Shop Gallery is taking advantage of "Shop Local Saturday," in fact Nov. 25-Dec. 2, to say "thank you" to her customers.

"Anyone who comes in on those days can put their name in the hat for a drawing and three lucky people will get to frame whatever they would like at Art Shop Gallery," said Marks. "We had planned on doing something a little later in December, but this seems to be the time to do it."

In addition, Marks and her staff have cookies and hot beverages available while shoppers browse the selection of gifts and stocking stuffers. Beginning Nov. 27 through Dec. 27, the gallery is open on Sundays.

At Fireweed Gallery, owner Irene Randolph will continue with her annual day-after-Thanksgiving sale by extending it through the weekend in order to be part of "Shop Local Saturday." Like the bookstore, the gallery opens its doors on Sundays for the holiday season, beginning Nov. 27.

This year's gallery sale features large-size clothing such as hoodies for men, as well as socks and mittens. The following weekend, the gallery also will be represented at the Nutcracker Faire, organized by the Homer Council on the Arts.

"I think it'll be a good holiday season in Homer," said Randolph. "People have started window shopping early and I know we've had a lot of inquiries about (clothing) sizes and different things we have in stock or can get for the holidays. It looks promising."

Becky Pfeil will have a big day-after-Thanksgiving sale at Timeless Toys as she has in past years, but on "Shop Local Saturday" Pfeil will have cookies and punch for shoppers making their holiday rounds.

"I'm about 3 percent down," said Pfeil of business this year. "So, I'm waiting to see how it all works out. That's such a small percentage that it's nothing to get excited about. It all depends on weather and the roads."

Timeless Toys also is open Sundays, beginning in May and continuing until Christmas.

Not changing a winning combination, Shawney Kinney at The Blackbeary Bog offers a 20 percent storewide sale beginning on Black Friday and continuing through Nov. 27.

"It's a tradition," said Kinney. "It's wonderful when people come to expect it. They love the sale."

A local supplier of RadioShack products, Gayle Forrest at Tech Connect gets the best of both worlds. If she doesn't mind beginning her workday at 5:30 a.m., that is. Forrest opens Tech Connect's doors early on Black Friday to offer local customers the one-day sales RadioShack advertises.

"Some of those sales end Friday, but there'll be other sales on Saturday," said Forrest, who will reopen at 10 a.m. on "Shop Local Saturday."

Having opened Homer Art and Frame on the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Lake Street earlier this year, Lynda Reed is inviting shoppers to see art supplies in action during "Shop Local Saturday." She also will offer a sale at Picture Alaska art gallery and Upstairs Boutique on Pioneer Avenue.

"At Homer Art and Frame, it's going to be demo day," said Reed. "We'll have artists demonstrating some of the great art supplies. There's no better gift for kids than art supplies. And we have lots of new items perfect for young people's presents and lots of great specials."

At the gallery and boutique, the focus will be on scarves.

"Cashmere, silk, fancy, plain, beautiful scarves. All on sale," said Reed. "And there'll be other great sales also. I haven't figured it all out yet, but I'll come up with something."

Picture Alaska Gallery and Upstairs Boutique are open seven days a week from Nov. 20 through Christmas. At Homer Art and Frame, holiday shopping hours are extended until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

The Homer Chamber of Commerce is spreading the word about "Shop Local Saturday" by contacting and encouraging local business participation.

"Since I got here, I have heard time after time that the chamber has been extremely supportive of the visitor industry, but not so much of the rest of the community," said Monte Davis, who became the chamber's executive director in May. "I love the idea of doing everything we can to encourage people to shop locally."

For every $100 spent in a locally owned business, $45 remains in the local economy, Davis said of statistics supplied by Northwest Earth Institute Choices for Sustainable Living. Every dollar spent at a locally owned store is usually spent six to 15 times before leaving the community, said Davis.

"My point is, if you went into the Homer Bookstore and bought a book there, Lee (Post) or Jenny (Stroyeck) will go across the street and have lunch. Then (Cosmic Kitchen owner) Shawn (Hogan) will go to Alyeska Tire and have his tires changed. Then Alyeska Tire goes to Ulmer's and buys a new wrench. And so it goes," said Davis. "What we need to remember is when we say 'community,' that's kind of generic, but the truth of the matter is, these are the people that will and can be our friends. We're literally supporting each other when we spend that dollar here."

Since moving to Homer earlier this year, Davis has learned that even attempts at humor can be costly.

"I used to joke about going to shop at Costco, but that's not funny. A cheap laugh is not good," said Davis. "I've really come to appreciate it more since I've been here and seen how much our dollars mean to each of us."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.