How Small Business Saturday is bringing our communities together
New York's Pioneer Works book store on Small Business Saturday in 2014. Photo: Getty Images

Hordes of shoppers will be lining up to score some of the biggest deals this year on Black Friday. Hey, there’s no shame in that game. Especially if you can pick up a $50 flat screen and be home before the sun rises. But once the dust settles and the store clerks at Target begin to clear the wreckage from their ransacked aisles, Small Business Saturday will be a nice reprieve for those looking to give back to the small independently owned stores that give their neighborhoods their personalities.

Keep it in the neighborhood with Small Business Saturday 

Small Business Saturday

Rough Trade will be hosting a special Record Store Day Event in partnership with Small Business Saturday. Photo: Getty Images 

Created nine years ago by American Express as a way to revitalize small businesses after the financial crisis, Small Business Saturday has now become a way for people to make sure that the money they spend on gifts for the holidays can stay within their communities and not go directly to the pockets of the executives at big box chains. It’s a day of appreciation and recognition for the stores that give towns and cities their charm. These stores pack much more than just purchasable goods on their shelves. They create experiences and excitement.


“American Express created Small Business Saturday in 2010,” explains Walter Frye Vice President, Global Brand Engagement at American Express. “It was during the economic recession and we wanted to help small business owners with their most pressing needs. Which of course is to attract more customers to their stores particularly during the busy holiday shopping season. Now in its ninth year, we’ve continued to grow our efforts and rally neighborhood champions and community organizations around the country to drive awareness to the fact that everyone in communities everywhere can do their part to have those communities thrive. We know that small businesses are the life-blood of communities so it’s been an important initiative for us over the past nine years and we’re excited that this will be our best year yet.”

While that may be a bold claim, Frye could be right as this year will see Small Business Saturday expanding much further than it has in recent years. This year, over 7,500 stores across the country holding the “neighborhood champion” distinction which means they will be organizing their own special events to mark the occasion and will also help to generate excitement to “shop local” in their communities. The celebration will be pairing up with some big-name partners like Etsy and Record Store Day for special events and exclusive giveaways and will also mark the first year that this event will be expanding into Puerto Rico.

“Consistently this is my biggest day of the year,” says Nicole Panettieri,  owner of the trendy boutique The Brass Owl in Astoria, NY. “We’re lucky that we live in a neighborhood that really supports small businesses so we see really large numbers come out to support stores in the neighborhood, including my store. We make it a really big party day. It’s kind of my way of saying thank you to my customers for supporting us year round and then coming on the day.”

While it’s easy to say that it is a noble and respectable thing to support local businesses like The Brass Owl, when it comes to the direct impact of you shopping small on your community the numbers don’t lie. According to a study performed by American Express, 67 cents of every dollar you spend at a small business stays within your community.

As Frye sees it, there are only benefits to be had by supporting these businesses that are such important parts of your neighborhood. “We strongly believe that it is small businesses that are the heart of our communities,” says Frye. “They are what make our communities vibrant and unique. When our communities thrive, we all do. That’s the reason why we proudly invest in this program and continue to back it year after year.”  

This year, American Express will be hosting a number of different events throughout New York City in celebration of Small Business Saturday including a free in-store performance with Ben Folds at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade record store. This event will be in partnership with Record Store Day and will include exclusive vinyl releases from Folds, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, and Ingrid Michaelson.


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