WORTHINGTON — Today marks Small Business Saturday around the U.S., and given that the nation is in the midst of its ninth month of a pandemic, local merchants are ever hopeful for plenty of support this Christmas season.
That’s certainly the case in Worthington, where 10th Street was a busy place on the afternoon of Black Friday, the traditional kickoff date for holiday shopping. Of course, little about 2020 has been traditional thus far, and retailers are mindful of that fact.
“We started our sale a couple days early this year and spread it out,” said Amanda Walljasper-Tate, who owns The Daily Apple, about Black Friday. “We’re going to be extending it until Tuesday just to give people more time to take advantage of the dates, and they won’t have to be concerned that it’s too crowded in the store.”
Walljasper-Tate, like many other small business owners, is also offering curbside pickup for her customers. She’ll ship items to anywhere in the country, she added, and encourages people to interact with her by using everything from videos, photos and Facetime to ensure they get the merchandise they want.
“We’re trying to be really active on social media to show people what we have in the store,” she said. “If they don’t feel comfortable coming in, they can call or message us if they see something they want.”
Also using social media to reach customers Friday morning was Matt Kennedy, who owns the downtown Brown’s Shoe Fit store. Kennedy opened for business at 7 a.m. Friday and quickly shot a video for Facebook to make sure prospective buyers knew it.
“I really wouldn’t say we’re marketing ourselves any differently,” Kennedy said. “We’ve always been customer-friendly, but we’re trying to give the option for people to shop however they need to. We have curbside pickup, or customers can order over the phone or message me — whatever is the most convenient for them.”
People looking for Sorel and Hey Dude footwear (Kennedy said they’re his most popular brands right now), along with any of Brown’s Shoe Fit other offerings, will definitely have plenty of opportunities to shop at the store during the next four weeks.
“We’re always open Sundays in the four weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and that’s nothing new this year,” Kennedy said. “We started three years ago being open the two Sundays before Christmas, and then went up to four. … It’s just important to give people more options, especially this year.”
Robyn Moser, who owns The Stag on Worthington’s 10th Street, opened her doors at 8:30 a.m Friday, and said in the afternoon that she’d had a steady stream of customers.
“I think people are wanting to get their shopping done now because there’s uncertainty,” said Moser, who has worked more than 25 years at the downtown business. “People are feeling unsure of things, so they’re doing some normal things right now like shopping and preparing gifts.”
Moser stepped away at one point to help a couple who were purchasing Darn Tough socks, a popular item that carries a lifetime warranty,
“All these customers that we've had in here today, they’re local,” Moser said. “It's been a nice day today; we’ve had people come in buying for themselves and buying for Christmas.
“I actually had a couple of gals that said they started at Sterling Drug and were making the rounds downtown,” she continued. “They said they were going to be out and about, and I’m not sure if they were just going to be downtown — they were going to other stores. It’s a great day to get out and explore all of our businesses in town.”
Walljasper-Tate, a former president of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, has long been a vocal advocate of supporting local business. She said that Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are typically very busy at The Daily Apple, and while the store may not be quite as full on those days this year, she’s confident many will still visit her at some point this holiday season.
“Some people still want to pick out gifts in person,” she said. “One thing we have seen continuously is shopping being done later, but this year, we’re less than a month away from Christmas, so it’s time.”
Among the offerings at The Daily Apple are high-quality vitamins and supplements, and Walljasper-Tate stressed that she and her staff are always happy to answer any natural health-related questions.
“People are buying healthy things as gifts … and I think people are really trying to be more and more proactive with their health this year,” she said. “That’s great, and that has been my passion.
“We really are grateful and are so happy that people are doing what they can to support their small businesses.”
Kennedy, who next week will mark five years with Worthington’s Brown’s Shoe Fit, acknowledged that small businesses often foster a special, customer-friendly environment.
“There’s a personal element to shopping local,” Kennedy said. “We get to know the customers, we get to know their kids; there's a personal touch that you can’t get when you’re shopping online or at places you don’t normally shop at.
“I take service very seriously and if we do something wrong, we’re going to make it right ... because the customer may be someone we see in the grocery store or on the golf course. There’s a personal touch that you can't replicate in a big-box store — knowing them (customers) and what they like and what didn’t work for them is important, especially in shoes.”
Moser, a current member of the Worthington Area Chamber board, agrees that type of personal touch is both important and advantageous.
“We offer gift certificates as well as free wrapping on gifts ... but we’re also happy to deliver Christmas presents if someone is shopping from out of town for someone here,” Moser said. “We’ll slap a name tag on for you, put a bow on it and drop it off at their door.”