Small Business Saturday sweets:

Cindy’s Candy Corner owner Cindy Shidler pulls a box of candy off of the shelf for a customer on Saturday during a holiday bazaar at The Meadows shopping center. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
Small Business Saturday sweets: Cindy’s Candy Corner owner Cindy Shidler pulls a box of candy off of the shelf for a customer on Saturday during a holiday bazaar at The Meadows shopping center. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
For a number of local entrepreneurs and shop owners, Small Business Saturday made for a big boon.

At The Meadows shopping center, a holiday bazaar meant an exponential increase in traffic for both the mall’s tenants and 50 vendors who peddled their wares at displays throughout the hallways. A plethora of goods and crafts were on display — Christmas decor, candles, soaps, pet bandanas, jewelry (or as one vendor called it, “bling”), pens, even snow-globes in Mason jars and wine bottles fashioned into artistic nightlights.

Christine Niemeyer, owner of the Lili Pad gift boutique and organizer of the bazaar, said, “Of all the days of the year, Small Business Saturday makes a huge difference.

“With so many people going cyber, people are starting to get a taste that we are flooding the market on that and are seeing repercussions — there are shortages, there are shipping delays,” she continued. “Small Business Saturday is a perfect way to sate that giving mode you’re already in. I don’t have to worry about [packages arriving late in the mail]. You have the hubbub of everybody coming out and you see the smile on their faces when they take their purchases to their cars.”

She added, “I started to see people coming back out on Black Friday, but on this day, I see it more.”

Stephanie Pence, owner of the Hallie Hound Barkery, was selling her handmade, lab-tested dog treats in gift baskets filled with toys.

“It’s important for this Saturday, to get our name out there,” she said. “It does — look around, there’s 50 small entrepreneurs out here, and that’s pretty amazing.”

Pence, who also also frequents the Meadow’s Farmers Markets, named her company after her beagle-basset-lab mix and started her business “when the pet food-scare of 2008 happened, to make sure that my pets were eating products that were healthy and safe for them,” she explained. “If it wasn’t good enough for me, it wasn’t good enough for my dog.”

She takes pride in her products. “It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears to start a small business in an industry that has a lot of competition,” she said. “I wanted to make a specialty pet product that everyone could afford, that everyone could spoil their pet and feel safe about it.”

Keep it in the area

James Albert, who runs James’ Custom Cuts, offering wood-etched plaques and signs, said, “I’ve always been someone who wants to buy local and I want to keep money in our area. Without it, we don’t grow. If you don’t keep money here, then you’re just helping bigger businesses grow and you’re not helping anybody improve their life.”

He works with both an old-fashioned engraver and a laser, computer-guided machine that allows him to make intricate plaques like one featuring the ornate sheet music for the son “The Old Rugged Cross.” He estimates that he makes 20% of his income from bazaars and 80% from custom work from patrons who make requests on his Facebook page.

Another participating artisan was Cindy Miller of the Bee Ridge Art Company, who was offering prints and ornaments of her colored pencil drawings of wildlife and animals.

“It’s nice to see people; I love to talk to people when they come by,” she said. “They can’t believe they’re made from colored pencil — most people think that they’re painted.” Each of her works takes one to two weeks to draw.

Niemeyer said she starts organizing the Small Business Saturday holiday bazaar beginning in August. “I have a waiting list of 20 people, so have to make sure that people who said ‘Yes’ at the beginning of the year can follow through,” she said, adding that she also seeks out a variety of vendors, “so I can make sure I don’t have too many candle people, too many craft people.

“These are all small businesses, so it makes sense to have them out here to have the support of everybody coming out,” she continued. “The community has embraced that. [They think,] ‘Let’s see how many unique gifts we can find,’ because so many of these people do not have store fronts. They need these events.”

Another holiday bazaar is scheduled for Dec. 18 for last-minute gifts.

At 12 Points

In the 12 Points neighborhood, a number of businesses were celebrating their first Small Business Saturday with booming business. Local Vinyl and Sons’ Spice Company both opened in the summer, while Makers Studio is the neighborhood’s baby, having opened just two weeks ago.

Eleanor Jones, owner of Local Vinyl, said, “I am happily surprised — I’ve only been open for an hour and a half, and I’ve already doubled my average sales for a Saturday. It’s just fun — a lot of regular customers have already been in. I’m a little disappointed that I can’t go out and shop myself, but maybe I can hit some shops after I close.”

After being replaced by compact discs in the 1980s, vinyl records are bouncing back in a huge way. “Twenty-nineteen was the first year that vinyl outsold any other format and every year since then, they’ve beaten their own record,” Jones said. “It’s on an up streak.”

Local Vinyl also offers live music and comedy shows. “The live shows aren’t a big source of income; it’s more to support local musicians and comedians and get the community together,” she said. “My hope is for this to be a place for people to hang out and we can talk about music.”

Gabrielle Sons, co-owner of Sons’ Spice Company with her husband Wyatt, said to call their weekend a success was “kind of an understatement. We had Black Friday yesterday, and we were not expecting to be as busy as we were. We were slammed, and are really grateful for that, and today has just been non-stop. We’re definitely appreciative that people are looking local.”

The Sons weren’t certain that an organic spice store was going to become all the rage. “A spice store in Terre Haute, we didn’t know how that was going to go,” she said. “We offer practical and unique gifts, and people are looking to not get the same old thing, so we’re happy because we put a lot of work into it and to be received really well is great.”

She said 12 Points businesses have formed a sense of community.

“It’s a weird bond that no one gets to experience that much,” she said. “With every new business opening, we’re all like, ‘Yes!’ People don’t know how much each little purchase means until they actually start talking to the owner. We didn’t understand the impact of how much just buying one thing meant until we owned our business.”

Sons said the turnaround in 12 Points’ revitalization efforts has been impressive to behold. “People are starting to see 12 Points as a destination and saying it’s the place to be and I think a year ago, people would not have said that,” she observed. “For that to happen in a year is amazing to me.”

So important to local businesses

Yvette Morgan had run a shop, Charm School, in downtown Terre Haute before rebranding it as Makers Studio and bringing in six other women who serve as instructors for all manner of art projects, from painting and fiber work to crochet. They even offer classes for kids as young as 3. Though the studio has a small store, patrons have the opportunity to create gifts that they made themselves.

“That’s the beauty of having a workshop,” Morgan said, adding, “Small Business Saturday is so important for local businesses. It brings the community together and to see them come into your shop and want to buy something of yours that you’ve made, that’s very rewarding. It gets people in the space so they can see the classes that we offer that they can sign up for.”

Pacesetter Sports on Highway 41, by contrast, is a venerable veteran of the local small business scene, having been around since 1982. It celebrated with its annual anniversary sale last week.

Store manager Jared Frink said, “In a world where it’s incredibly easy to do all your shopping online, we definitely need and appreciate the people who come to us. The only advantage we have over online shopping is the knowledge and experience we can bring to the table — we’ll sit down with people and talk about what they want and need. We rely on the institutional knowledge we’ve gained over the years that you can’t find on those websites.”

Buying locally, he noted, prevents the hassle of boxing a product up and shipping it back to an online company. He said that the store outfits many local schools with sporting uniforms and equipment. “Anything they need to play sports — team sports is a huge part of our business, maybe even more than retail these days,” he said.

As Hallie Hound Barkery’s Pence put it, the big box stores had Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday was for the little guy. “And then we can all fight over Cyber Monday,” she said.
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