Valerie Piko promotes small businesses for Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED).Shop Small on Saturday and Carry a Big Bag Nora Edinger November 29, 2019 Sometimes you just want to shop in your jammies. Sometimes you need everything from an ice scraper to almond butter, and only a big box will do. Other times, you want to smell those coffee beans grinding, run your fingers over the soft wale of a corduroy coat that screams “cowboy,” or simply bump into neighbors while browsing your way down an actual street. If you’re feeling that latter vibe, local entrepreneurs have you covered. Small Business Saturday — a nationwide alternative to Black Friday and online shopping promotions — is this weekend. Small Business Saturday is the brainchild of American Express. Since the event’s launch in 2010, that company estimates American shoppers have spent more than $103 billion during the promotions. The company — which pegs such small-business advocacy as an “annual event with year-round support” — also estimates that 67 cents of each locally spent dollar stays in the community. GETTING READY “It’s my first. I’m so excited,” Stacy Dietz said of preparing her Ditto Boutique for the event, which was launched in support of small entrepreneurs by American Express in 2010. “We’ve been promoting it.” That Edgewood-neighborhood shop — which sells new and vintage clothing, accessories and décor — marks its first anniversary today. Ditto, like many small stores, is running a special for Small Business Saturday. Customers purchasing $50 gift cards will have an extra $10 added to the card balance. “This will be great for the guys who don’t really know what their women want,” Dietz joked. Across town, at Centre Market, shopowner Amy Cordy is also gearing up. Her shop, VC Wares, stocks boutique clothing and accessories; new and vintage décor and furniture; and chalk paint. Amy Cordy, owner of VC Wares in Centre Market, is ready for customers at this weekend’s Small Business Saturday. Her store is already decked out with holiday finery in calming cream and other muted colors. Cordy said she strives for a look and feel that is as far removed from big-box stores as possible. “It’s such a different atmosphere (all the time), and Small Business Saturday is kind of that, amplified. People are just kind. It’s a cool day.” In still another location — Plaza on Market in the heart of downtown — there is another facet to the promotion in the works. The city is offering free ice skating (including skate use) from 3-8 p.m. Saturday on a synthetic rink near the official Wheeling Christmas tree. “We are excited to bring an activity such as this to our downtown,” said Michele Rejonis, Wheeling marketing and community relations specialist. “We hope folks come out and visit many of our small businesses in the city and stop by the ice rink to enjoy some winter fun as we kick off the holiday season.” Valerie Piko, who promotes small businesses for Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED), agreed. And, she noted that the Plaza on Market (1053 Market St.) is ringed with places to eat. “Small Business Saturday is not only about retail,” Piko said. “It’s supporting local eateries, as well.” “This part of downtown is the city’s best-kept gastronomic secret,” said Dave McFarland of Mmm…Popcorn, located on the Plaza on Market. “We are gearing up for this year’s Small Business Saturday and hope people will enjoy the skating on Market Plaza and sample the great food here, including our gourmet popcorn. We’re offering a 20 percent off deal for anyone ordering gift tins on Saturday.” Valerie Piko, who promotes small businesses for Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED), said Small Business Saturday is more than just helping out local entrepreneurs. Noting that impromptu shopping is one of the hazards of her job, she said the city is full of unique and well-made gift items such as these hand-dyed silk scarves. THE LONG HAUL Piko noted that while Small Business Saturday is an annual event, the underlying idea is to promote year-round patronage of local businesses. Cordy said that has certainly been her takeaway after more than five years in business. “We see our regulars — who make a point to come in — but we also see people who have never been in,” Cordy said of the day itself. “That’s the cool thing. People are really taking the time to explore.” Ditto’s Dietz, who will experience her first Small Business Saturday this year, said she has already felt the rising love of local. “People always say you take a loss in the first year,” Dietz said of rolling out her business. “That hasn’t happened … I’m not bragging. I’m in shock.” Similarly to Cordy’s belief that a lovely local atmosphere can drive sales, Dietz believes the smallness of Ditto’s location has been a factor in its success. “We’re in a (residential) neighborhood,” Dietz said. “A lot of people walk to my store.” That kind of talk pleases Piko, who hopes area residents will ponder all their shopping options every day of the year. “A lot of the small businesses in our area break records that day,” she said of this Saturday’s event. “(But) you’re also connecting that shopping with a face. You’re helping the support these people and their staffs.” • A long-time journalist, Nora Edinger also blogs at noraedinger.com and Facebook and writes books. Her Christian chick lit and faith-related non-fiction are available on Amazon. She lives in Wheeling, where she is part of a three-generation, two-species household. 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