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November 30, 2013

Chambers, stores join forces for Small Business Saturday|

By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The Cooperstown and Otsego County chambers of commerce, along with project partners, have teamed up this year to encourage the success of this week’s Small Business Saturday.

Otsego County Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Ann Heegan said her encouragement of Small Business Saturday in the area is part of a campaign called Think Local First that she and Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patricia Szarpa spearheaded together. Heegan said the campaign is a movement to showcase and celebrate local small businesses.

Small Business Saturday, in its fourth year, is part of a nationwide attempt led by American Express to encourage shopping locally rather than at big-name departments stores this holiday season. According to American Express, when people shop locally 52 percent of the money spent stays in the community and is recycled.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our community,” Heegan said.

Main Street Oneonta program manager Julia Goff said the businesses in downtown Oneonta do a lot throughout the year to get involved in the community, donating and participating whenever possible.

“Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to show our appreciation to local businesses for all that they do to make our community such a special, close-knit one,” Goff said.

The event is growing every year because people are seeing the benefits of supporting the local economy, Heegan said. Shoppers also do not want to travel far away to make their purchases.

“I have had many customers this year say that they were going to shop locally,” said Deb Lake, manager and executive director of The Artisans’ Guild in Oneonta.

Lake said she has a sign posted on the door of her shop promoting Small Business Saturday and that she thinks it’s a great idea. She said prices in her store are already as low as possible, but there will be lots of beautiful new things in the store for that day.

“Any accent on small business is a good thing,” Lake said.

Szarpa said the process of organizing the Think Local First campaign began nine months ago with a planning meeting and the development of a committee. She then invited Heegan to be part of the campaign and, together, they spoke with stakeholders and business leaders in Cooperstown and Oneonta, got the Bank of Cooperstown and Otsego County Tourism on board as project partners and developed a logo.

“The chambers of commerce champion our local businesses, and want the community to do the same,” Heegan said.

Szarpa said more businesses than ever in Cooperstown are using the Small Business Saturday kits provided by American Express, which included doormats, banners, and other signage to advertise the day.

Betsy Westad-Cunningham, owner of Artware in Oneonta, said people are so used to shopping at big stores that they often forget about the local shops. She said Artware is offering 10 percent off calendars and boxed Christmas cards, which she hopes will draw customers in.

“We have a beautiful downtown, and it’s a great place to shop and spend the holidays,” Cunningham said.

Oneonta’s Green Toad Bookstore owner Michele Barry said it is important to emphasize what is different and unique about “mom and pop” stores versus corporate businesses. Her store, which is celebrating its fifth year in business, will feature a special guest appearance by WDOS radio personality and Daily Star columnist “Big” Chuck D’Imperio from noon until 2 on Saturday. D’Imperio will be available to make book recommendations and sign copies of his book.

Szarpa said she, Heegan and their team plan to hold many more events in 2014 like Small Business Saturday to encourage their Think Local First campaign, possibly even partnering with other chambers of commerce across the county. One of the next events will be a panel discussion at Springbrook on Dec.11.

Szarpa also said it is important to remember that the idea behind Small Business Saturday and Think Local First is not just a one-day deal.

“We want people to keep thinking and shopping locally, whether it’s a store or a service,” Szarpa said, “because it is putting power back in our community and keeping it strong.”