Kutztown - Thanksgiving for many is the most anticipated of the Fall events each year. For local retail stores and restaurants, it’s also the start of a sometimes frantic period leading up to the end of the year.
So significant are the weeks before Christmas that Thanksgiving weekend has, over the recent years, become a holiday in it’s own right. This year, Nov. 29 through Dec. 1 begins the month-long period before the end of the year when stores expect to be busy and sales often are projected to be strongest.
But more than a shopping event, the long weekend that follows Thanksgiving has become an opportunity for communities to appreciate the local businesses that are in their downtowns. As big box stores push the “Black Friday” envelope further into Thanksgiving day, many customers are becoming more conscious of the opportunities in local downtowns to offer a friendlier, more personal shopping experience.
“There's exuberance and energy that local businesses bring to their stores that customers enjoy,” observed Jim Springer, owner of Dunkleberger’s Fine Jewelry in downtown Kutztown “There’s a lot of depth and variety to this town, perhaps not obvious, but it's palpable. We have a connection to customers you just can’t beat.”
Other business want offer an experience that is not available to customers elsewhere. Firefly Bookstore has been adding new products as build-up for the season for the last few months.
“I know that our store and others are pretty busy,” Rebecca Laincz, co-owner of Firefly explained, “But we’re all obviously having a good, fun time. It feels pretty amazing after all the planning and build-up to share the energy with the customers. They seem to be happy too!”
“Small Business Saturday is like a mobile party,” said Paisley & Company’s Joanne Lapic.
She and the other workers at Paisley have been putting in the hours producing bath and beauty products for the season, developing new scents and reworking displays.
The Saturday following Thanksgiving, this year on Nov. 30, has been marketed for the last 10 years as Small Business Saturday. American Express has pushed a national campaign around the event, and has provided additional resources for local business communities.
Taking advantage of these resources, organizations like the Kutztown Community Partnership and the Northeast Berks Chamber of Commerce have often coordinated on local marketing for Small Business Saturday in conjunction with downtown businesses.
This year, KCP will be organizing a welcome center at their offices at 306 West Main Street in downtown Kutztown. KCP will have maps, coffee, free shopping bags and other support and information for visitors. KCP has been strongly promoting the new Kutztown App over the past year.
There are new businesses entering their first holiday season.
Alexis Sirrakos, co-owner of Walnut Street Paper upstairs at 271 West Main is “Looking forward to our first Small Business Saturday and being a part of such a great community of local businesses in Kutztown,” she and her husband and business partner George Sirrakos have curated a collection of collectible posters, books and ephemera. “We anticipate the holiday season will be a great opportunity to introduce our business to everyone.”
Lidia Leiva and Diana Velasquez are the new owners at the fresh donut cafe, renamed Donut Lover’s Boom.
“This is our first year so we want to do some special flavors and creations for the season,” said Lidia. “Our customers has been very supportive, offering ideas and suggestions. This is our first business.”
B&R computers at 15 East Main Street is also newly opened this year as well. Ryan Hertzog plans to create some offers for customers who are looking for computers, tablets and laptops.
Cielito Lindo Mexican Restaurant is another new arrival in Kutztown this year.
Also new for this year are the marketing efforts of a group of downtown Kutztown retailers and eateries to use social media tools in an effort to get the word out. Reaching out to audiences on platforms like Facebook and Instagram represents a different co-marketing approach to finding new customers for the whole downtown.
Most businesses individually market themselves through social media and other traditional means like newspapers. Working collaboratively, Kutztown businesses believe they can spread the attraction of downtown further afield.
“This represents a growth for us,” said Matthew Williams of Firefly Bookstore. “We have tried many different ways to communicate about our area, but social media offers a persistent and verifiable approach to see who is interested and wants to take part.”
Christopher Moyer of Mad Dogs on North Constitution Boulevard said, “We are very excited for this holiday season. We have a huge social media presence and we are hoping this joint effort that we’re using, makes that presence reach even further.”
Mad Dogs are running specials through the holiday season.
Jim Springer thinks that business collaboration adds to the vitality of the downtown. “Having the downtown retailers and restaurants working together is a great dynamic,” Jim said. “This is just part of what makes downtown Kutztown interesting.”
Colleen Underwood of Four Monkeys Coffee thinks that collaboration adds to the sense of community.
“We feel supported by other businesses and hope they feel the same. While we are just off of Main Street [on North Constitution], we are connected by the co-op marketing and feel it brings more local and out of town customers to our location. Social media is our favorite way to keep our customers up to date with our new inventory, art shows, and events.”
“Social media has been great for my business, because I decide on flash sales for the day,” said Renée Spaide, owner of Renee’s Finders Keepers, secondhand and vintage clothing shop on East Main Street.
“Kutztown is what small town business is all about. It’s stood the test of time with a welcoming small town atmosphere,” she said.
Most stores will be open regular hours, but some will have extended hours for the weekend. Small Business Saturday events begin at 9 am. It is recommended to check stores for specific hours, or check the Facebook event page facebook.com/events/528625954361692.
Matthew Williams, co-owner of Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown, compiled this article on behalf of KCP and Kutztown businesses.