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Small Business Saturday urges shoppers keep spending local

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Keep your money where your roof is.

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that’s the message in a nutshell of the national Small Business Saturday shopping day. Today, north country residents will get the chance to capture specials offered by merchants and restaurants. Small-business owners here offering sales say the second annual event has given residents an outlet to take a stand against big-box stores by keeping dollars invested in their local economies.

Just a handful of downtown Watertown businesses offered deals last year, but more than 30 have signed up for a free marketing campaign launched by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce to spread the word about their specials, said Director of Marketing Sara C. Carpenter. She said the chamber increased awareness of the event this year by posting information on its Facebook page. Businesses that responded by offering deals were given free email ads by the chamber.

Small Business Saturday was started by American Express in 2010 to catalyze communities to spotlight local businesses.

“The social media aspect has increased, and we’ve taken it to a whole new level,” Ms. Carpenter said. “Support your local businesses, beat crowds, don’t wait in lines. Instead of giving money to large businesses, take a trip downtown on Saturday and shop at a few gift shops.”

Fitting that bill is the Paddock Art & Antiques shop in the Paddock Arcade on Public Square. Stocked with time-honored antiques and curiosities, the store is offering a 20 percent discount today on nearly all its merchandise.

Pointing to groups of vintage Christmas ornaments, cookie cutters and woodworking tools, co-owner Wendy M. Bensol said the store is the antithesis of a big-box retailer.

“It’s a good opportunity for customers to find gifts from the yesteryear they won’t find in big stores,” she said.

Added co-owner Lynn M. Chavoustie, “When people buy things at this store, that supplies us with income to buy more merchandise from vendors across the region.”

Also in the Paddock Arcade, Moontide Arts shop will offer anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent off its merchandise today, featuring incense with a variety of aromas and spiritual items from world religions.

“Small Business Saturday gives people who are dazzled by the sales in the big-box stores the chance to see what we have to offer,” owner Victoria R. Murchison said, adding the shop drew strong sales last year for the occasion. “A lot of people today are more aware of the importance of shopping locally, and you can get individual care and attention that you don’t get in large stores.”

Abbey Carpet, 150 Court St., is offering 20 percent off its blinds and various deals on its area rugs to mark the occasion, said Joyce M. Bradley, who co-owns the store with her husband, Stephen J.

“As a shopper, I try to keep my spending local because it fuels our local economic engine,” she said. “I hear the same thing from a lot of my Fort Drum customers, who say they’d like to keep their money here.”

Several businesses in downtown Carthage also are participating this year, said Sandra A. Johnson, co-owner of an antique shop there called Eclectic Boutique. Started with a group of friends in 2011, the shop showcases a range of antiques, handmade jewelry, soaps and fine foods. She said today’s deals will be anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent off.

“It’s a good weekend because we’re trying to promote small businesses, which are what America is built on,” she said, adding that the store launched a “shop local” social media campaign this year. “Because Carthage is near Fort Drum, a lot of people visit our shop because it’s unique. These local, handmade products are something different you can’t buy (elsewhere). A lot of people give us that feedback.”

In St. Lawrence County, the city of Ogdensburg will have downtown merchants offering specials today. Basta’s Flower Shop, 619 Main St., will offer a range of new gift products, including wood-wick candles, salsas and jams, wind chimes, bird feeders, body lotions and plush animals.

“As a community in Ogdensburg, people tend to shop in Watertown and Massena,” owner Joseph M. Basta said. “We’ve lost a number of businesses over the years, but the ones that remain are very community-oriented. I think people here ought to give us another look and see what they can do about coming in and shopping at our stores.”

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