(HELENA) Many holiday shoppers turned to local Helena businesses Saturday, as part of nationwide Small Business Saturday events.
Businesses up and down Last Chance Gulch put up signs, encouraging customers to “Shop Small.”
That includes shops like Birds and Beasleys, on the Walking Mall, which focuses on art, gifts and bird supplies. Owner Sandy Shull said local products are a major part of what she offers.
“We have a really unique spot,” she said. “If you need a gift of something that is not only from a local business, but from a local merchant or a local craftsperson, we are your spot to come to.”
Shull said, on Small Business Saturday, she hears from a number of customers who make a point of buying from stores like hers. She thanked the Helena community for backing local retailers.
“We know they’re shopping online and we know they’re shopping other places, because you only have so many choices,” she said. “But they try really hard to do the local thing if they can.”
Despite some snow showers throughout the day, many shoppers walked from store to store along Last Chance Gulch. Shull said she thought the weather might even have helped businesses.
“Snow kind of puts Montanans in the season,” said Shull. “When you have a really warm December, people keep thinking Christmas is coming, but it’s going to be down the way. A little snow that doesn’t debilitate people from getting out and about, I think is always a good way to do it.”
One of the shoppers was Joan Krywaruchka, who visited a half-dozen retailers with her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
“I like to shop local,” she said. “I love the downtown stores; there’s a lot of great small businesses. I support them at Christmas, but I also do my best to support them all year long.”
Shull said that support doesn’t only matter to her business, but to the entire community.
“You support me, and 80 percent of my income stays in town,” she said. “It’s all about keeping the money local and keeping it moving around.”
Business owners and shoppers agreed there are other benefits of shopping local that can’t be matched anywhere else.
“Where else can you meet the owner, who also is the one shoveling out today, the one doing the gift wrapping and also helping the customers?” Shull asked. “You can’t beat that.”
“You go in and they call you by name and they recognize you,” said Krywaruchka. “It’s just fun to know you’re supporting a person who’s your neighbor.”
Small Business Saturday continued Downtown Helena’s Holiday Stroll Weekend, which began with Friday’s Parade of Lights down Last Chance Gulch.