Ducking in and out of stores in downtown Johnson City and Jonesborough, locals didn’t seem to be on a shopping mission for something like a new TV or a game, but instead seemed carefree, and almost curious, about what they would find.
Pam Billingsby, along with her daughter, Sarah Wilhoit, and granddaughter, Isla, six weeks old, were browsing Bernina In Stitches, 408 S. Roan St., Suite 100, in Johnson City, looking for material to make a Christmas dress for Isla.
“This is the best shop,” Billingsby said. “If you can’t figure (a sewing pattern or sewing technique) out, they’ll help you. They’re very helpful and they’ll help out more than a chain store.”
Billingsby and Wilhoit said they usually stay away from Black Friday shopping, as well as any early Thanksgiving Day sales, saying simply “it’s family time.”
But both agreed that Small Business Saturday was an exception because they saw the value in shopping and supporting local businesses and business owners.
“The things that you get in the local stores are more unique,” Billingsby said.
Bernina In Stitches owner Teresa Smith said having a day set aside strictly for small businesses is a way for many businesses like her own to reach new shoppers.
Smith said the shop has been doing a lot of monogramming of sweatshirts, baby items, specialty T-shirts and even a few horse blankets for customers this holiday shopping season.
Noting that many people like giving gifts during the holidays that are “created out of love,” she said a lot of people were coming in to buy material for holiday dresses, clothing, scarves and quilts.
Smith said this time of year is the most productive time for Bernina sewing machine sales.
With all of the construction over the past few months on South Roan Street, she said Small Business Saturday has been a welcomed resource for them and added “we’re grateful for it.”
“We need to grow,” Smith said. “We have a very loyal customer base. We’re sustainable because of our customer base. It’s our local customers that keep us going. (But) we need to reach out to a new customer base. It’s a very big day for us. It brings a little bit more attention to (us).
Mel’s Stamps & Coins, 85 Buffalo St., had a steady stream of customers filter into the store Saturday.
Owner Melvin Broyles said he was happy to see people back in the store after losing about half of his clientele due to road construction.
“There’s several more people in here,” Broyles said. “More people are in than have been in a long time. It’s a good day.”
He said during the holidays, a lot of customers come in looking specifically for state quarters, national park and presidents coins, as well as baseball cards and stamps.
Another collectible coin favorite, Broyles said, would be the annual Christmas coins. He said he’s “had some people buying Christmas coins for 30-40 years.”
As downtown Jonesborough was temporarily transformed into Dr. Seuss’ “Whoville” on Saturday, business owners along Main Street were bracing for shoppers.
Jennifer Love, of Hendersonville, N.C., was in Mauk’s of Jonesborough, 101 W. Main St., looking around with her mother-in-law, Donna Love, hoping to find items to finish off their Christmas list.
“We go shopping every year after Thanksgiving,” Jennifer said.
She said while they have even shopped on Black Friday in years past, this year they wanted to support local businesses.
“You can find more unique things this way,” Jennifer said.
Joel Conger, owner of Mauk’s, was busy checking out and helping customers with items around the store. “It’s been busy and it’s been great. It’ll be a good day in Jonesborough,” Conger said.
Dean Chesnut, owner of Jonesborough General Store and Eatery, 107 E. Main St., said his customers in years past have built baskets for friends and family using items sold in the store. He said the old-fashioned candy, grits and jams always seem to sell during the holidays.
As for Small Business Saturday, he said he always looks forward to people coming in.
“I just think it’s great that all across the country they are promoting this, not to just come and visit us, but to shop and visit the whole town,” Chesnut said.
Commenting on the shopping craze that surrounds the holiday season, in particular Black Friday, he said Small Business Saturday is pleasant because “we don’t see crazy crowds.”
“I think (Small Business Saturday) should be something all year round,” Chesnut said. “We’ve gotten ourselves in such a hurry. We need to get back to our roots.”
A store that would put anyone in the Christmas spirit would be The Christmas Shop on Main, 105 Courthouse Square, where store owner Suzan Harrison said the shop is “all Christmasy everywhere.”
“It’s great to watch people come through the door,” Harrison said Saturday. “They’re just very excited.”
The store, full of color and sparkle as soon as you walk in the door, carries specialty ornaments, a variety of decorative Santa Clauses and German Nutcrackers, as well as popular themed decorations such as peacocks, peacock feathers and chalkboard ornaments.
The day is traditionally one of the store’s biggest revenue days of the year. Harrison said prices on the Christmas goods vary.
“We try to have all price ranges so that there’s something for everybody,” she said.
Harrison said Friday’s business started off slow and picked up around lunchtime, but said the store had a consistent amount of shoppers Saturday.
“This time of year, people are trying to get into the Christmas spirit. People come to Jonesborough to shop because they’re looking for the smaller retailer, just a more personalized shopping experience,” she said. “Small businesses are the backbone of the community. It’s the small businesses that support things like your kid’s Little League team. We may not have the biggest sales, but we have the biggest hearts.”