Alle-Kiski Valley shoppers drawn to local stores on Small Business Saturday
From “Rugged Man” all natural goat’s milk soap to panther figurines, sales were brisk even on a dreary rainy day in the Alle-Kiski Valley for Small Business Saturday.
A number of small businesses participated in the national event that bands businesses together in towns to showcase their often unique products, providing an attractive alternative to malls and big box stores.
All of the Alle-Kiski stores participating in the event offered discounts on much of their merchandise and will continue to offer some discounts in the run-up to the holidays.
Often the quality of the merchandise and service is what separates large national stores from small specialty shops such as Home Collection, which is located in the Pittsburgh Mills mall and was formerly of Oakmont.
“Did you decide on your scent?” Leslie Altmar, a clerk, asked a customer at Home Collection on Saturday. The richly fragrant soy candles in decorative holiday containers were on sale. Peppermint twist was the holiday scent of the day.
Paul Boyle, owner of Home Collection, explained that his store is not a jumble of the cheapest goods, but carefully selected lighting, wall decor, furniture, decorations and high quality artificial Christmas trees.
“Beyond the products and selection, every dollar spent here stays in the community,” Boyle said, noting another reason why consumers should consider shopping at locally owned stores.
In Lower Burrell, the specialty gift shop Hole in the Wall was packed Saturday with customers perusing jewelry, glassware, stuffed animals, religious figurines and more.
That’s where Tillie Miller and her sister, Mary Mazzotta, both from Lower Burrell, started their holiday shopping.
“I like to patronize our local businesses,” Miller said. “I’m getting Christmas decor for my home today.”
Mazzotta said the shop offers unique gifts not offered at big box stores.
Small Business Saturday is the second busiest time of the year next to the store’s annual open house, according to owner Christine Dymkoski.
Many small towns like Leechburg and Vandergrift combine Small Business Saturday with holiday events to draw additional customers.
Between Vandergrift’s holiday parade on Friday and Small Business Saturday, the candy has been “flying out of here,” said Pete Basile of Sweetlane Chocolate Shop.
His top seller: “Anything chocolate.”
Also riffing off of the borough’s festivities was the Vandergrift Market, with more than a dozen vendors including local artisans in the former Banshee building at 134 Grant Ave. The market will open next on Dec. 8.
Bonnie Tesone of Apollo, creator of Soap by Bonnie, saw a good number of shoppers in the market Saturday.
Crowd favorites were from the men’s soap collection, “Rugged Man” and “Mossy Oak,” both pleasing fragrances with that just-showered freshness and a hint of musk. Her handcrafted soaps are made with raw goat’s milk, olive oil, shea butter and other natural ingredients.
Spurring sales for vendors in Leechburg was a borough holiday celebration on Market Street on Saturday, replete with music, Santa Claus, a parade, and a stand for freshly popped kettle corn in front of the Twisted Thistle, as well as other booths.
The festivities brought out the public who filtered into shops like Ruman & Kraft Antiques.
“We were swamped earlier in the day,” said Bill Ruman, one of the shop’s owners. Customers bought jewelry at lower prices and higher quality than can be had at the department stores, he said. Vintage bakelite bracelets, plastic-like and colorful bangles also sold well. Retro items were popular, including figurines such as panthers and cookie jars.
Local antiques stores are the gift go-to for discerning shoppers looking for something different, and the discounts offered on Small Business Saturday can prove attractive.
Nancy Alberth, one of the co-owners of Antiques on Market in Freeport, reported she had customers from Connoquenessing Township and Zelienople on Saturday.
Some customers actually prefer the local shopping experience, Alberth said.
“Online doesn’t provide the warmth or the customer service that a small business will offer,” she said.
Online doesn’t provide wine, either, while shopping. To get holiday shoppers even more in the mood, the store will offer “Sip and Shop Small” on Dec. 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Some towns such as Oakmont stretched Small Business Saturday into a three-day event, from Black Friday through Sunday.
Some shops not typically open during Sunday, such as the children’s clothing store Precious + Posh along Allegheny River Boulevard, pledged to welcome customers that day.
“I like the whole weekend because people expect sales,” owner Mary DiMatteo said. “I don’t think Black Friday’s as big for boutiques as it is for other stores, but it creates kind of a buzz for the whole weekend.
“We do a lot of our own promotion on social media and our email campaigns. Having it combined with the Chamber of Commerce and a larger source, people are more likely to come down here because they can go to multiple stores. We kind of all support each other, telling people what else is new and who else is open.”
Mary Ann Thomas and Michael DiVittorio are Tribune-Review staff writers. Contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib. Contact Michael at [email protected], 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.