After wrapping up a custom made gift basket, Deborah Thompson tied a large bow to make it complete.
“Any type of thing you can use a gift basket for, I can do it here,” Thompson said. “And it’s using all North Carolina products.”
The local business owner is looking forward to shoppers visiting her store, Simply NC, during Small Business Saturday, which follows the Black Friday frenzy.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Thompson said about the special occasion on Saturday, Nov. 28. “This really helps draw attention to the small businesses in town.”
The Sampson Community College (SCC) Small Business Center joined the North Carolina Community College Small Business Center Network to promote the day and encourage residents to patronize local stores. It began in 2010 by American Express as a day to celebrate local businesses through the launch of the holiday shopping season. SCC is also working with the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Clinton to help raise awareness.
“Each year, it has grown tremendously with greater and greater results,” said Amanda Bradshaw, director of the Small Business Center at SCC.
Bradshaw noted that Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday attract different markets.
“Everybody brings something unique to the table,” Bradshaw said. “Our small business stores in the county and the cities that we have, bring to the table, that one-on-one customer service, that’s sometimes hard to find at the big box. They’re willing to help you find the right product for that special person.”
Bradshaw added that service is not just about wrapping up a gift and throwing it in a box or bag.
“They really want to make sure that you’re happy with your purchase and that you feel like you spent your money wisely,” she said.
Also, Bradshaw stressed that the local stores offers one-of-a-kind products to purchase for loved ones.
“They may be a one-a-kind person in your life,” Bradshaw said.
Located on Vance Street, Thompson’s store specializes in selling products made in North Carolina. A lot of the items can not be found in the big-box stores.
“If you want a cookie cutter gift, go to Wal-Mart,” she said. “If you want something that’s more special and unique, shop at our downtown shops.”
Thompson added that the quality is better, which includes time and money invested into the products they sell.
“It just don’t see that in a big chain store,” Thompson said.
Before and after Small Business Saturday, the local business hopes the community supports their shops throughout the year. Unlike the larger retail stores, Thompson said a lot of that success depends on teamwork.
“It’s about us working together,” Thompson said. “We all want to sell our stuff, but we really can’t be competitive. We have to work as a team to get people to come back to downtown.”
It’s something Bradshaw encourages too.
“What folks don’t realize is that those small business our supporting our community, through functions and events year-round,” she said about local civic groups and schools. “It’s important that we return that and reciprocate to those folks and let them know that we appreciate their support throughout the year.”
Nearby Deborah Bullard Harn, owner of the Vance Street Market Flower Shoppe, prepared a wreath with large pine cones. Like Thompson, she’s looking forward to people coming to the store on Saturday to purchase floral products. As a business owner and community member, supporting the local mom-and-pop stores is something she enjoys doing.
“I’ve always believed in shopping local and supporting our community,” Harn said.
Jacquelynn Richardson, owner of Unique Gifts By Jacquelynn, also provides unique items that shoppers can not find in big stores or even smaller stores.
“The more people that shop local and come to our stores, they come back,” she said. “It’s different and they’re not having to go fight the crowds and they’re finding that unique gifts that they won’t find at the mall.”
The downtown store has eight rooms to benefit every gender and person. Some of them include a man cave, ladies room, home decor and jewelry area. It’s also expanded with a gift shop in the local hospital.
“Everybody in the family can come there and find something,” Richardson said.
Like other downtown business owners, Richardson believes it’s important for people to support their homegrown stores. For Richardson, it creates a family-like connection.
“I don’t treat people as customers, I treat them like family,” she said about her motto. “When that person comes in the first time, they may be a customer, but the next time they’re family.”
The treatment results in people coming back to the stores, year-round. Some even bring her gifts such as delicious meals.
“That makes me feel good …,” Richardson said while talking about the connection. “With the local stores downtown, you have that opportunity to have that one-on-one communication. You’re not just going to the cash registers.”