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WNPR’s small business coverage elevates understanding of the challenges faced by small business, educates policy-makers, and highlights the vital role of small business to the state’s economy.

Small Retail Eyes Holiday Wallets

Harriet Jones


While shoppers gear up for Black Friday – maybe even for the midnight doorbusters on Thanksgiving  – small businesses are hoping they won’t be forgotten in the holiday rush. This weekend marks the third annual Small Business Saturday. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

If you’re a regular traveler on I-95, the name Clinton might bring to mind the big outlet mall that looms over the highway near that town.

But if you’ve never ventured further than Brooks Brothers and the Gap, you might not know that Clinton also has a very traditional main street.

“It’s a wonderful, Yankee, New England small town.”

That’s Ellen Cavanagh of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce. She says it isn’t just sentiment to shop in the used book store, the local pizza joint, the family owned jewelers or the sports store that are all walking distance from her office on East Main.

“It’s like a circle. You know – the people who own the small businesses, they are our friends and our neighbors. They pay taxes that support the schools, that support the roads and the same programs of work that we all pay taxes to support. And in the end they’re the very people that we should be buying from all year long.”

Small business Saturday is a relatively new concept. Started in 2010, its backers claim that last year it tempted 100 million Americans to shop at small retailers after the Thanksgiving holiday. Cavanagh says the boost is welcome.

“Anything that reminds people to visit their own backyards absolutely helps and that is in fact one of our credos here all year long, is to shop the local economy.”

At least one local business here is taking it right to the big competition this holiday shopping season. Shore TV, which sells washers, driers, refrigerators and other appliances has its windows decked out with posters advertising Black Friday discounts. Owner Gerry Vece.

“It has to be – we’re forced to do a lot of promoting during this time, because a lot of our competitors are doing that same thing. So yeah, the manufacturers give us discounts on appliances and we pass them on to our consumers.”

Vece’s family started this business in 1957 and he himself has worked here for 30 years. He says he is beginning to notice a fresh interest in shopping local – and an awareness of small business Saturday.

“Our customers who are supporting us are making mention of the fact that they’d rather do business in their home town or in a small retailer where they get maybe better service and more personal attention.”

A couple of blocks down at the Clinton Antique Center, owner Dave Case is already in holiday mood.

“People are loading it up for Christmas time. We sell everything, filling it up with nativity sets, Christmas bulbs and all kinds of stuff like that selling.”

And while I95 might seem like it tempts people to drive right on by Main Street Clinton, Case believes the proximity of the outlet mall at Clinton Crossing actually helps his store.

“It works out great for us, because they’re all right up the street here at the big outlet, and they come down here to get the good old antiques that people collect instead of the new stuff.”

With the outlets expected to be a mob scene this Friday, Case and his fellow small retailers will hope at least some of those customers spare a thought for their unique offerings.