Here’s how local communities are gearing up for Small Business Saturday

Bellefonte will offer a courtesy parking program beginning Black Friday.
Bellefonte will offer a courtesy parking program beginning Black Friday. Centre Daily Times, file

Black Friday has a stranglehold on holiday shoppers, but its grip has been slightly loosened by Small Business Saturday for several years.

American Express, which launched SBS in 2010, estimated that the United States hit a record high of 72 percent of consumers aware of the initiative to shop small. About 112 million people reported buying small on SBS last year, a 13 percent increase from 2015.

Community and organizational initiatives, AE said, were in part responsible for the upticks in last year’s increase in awareness and shoppers inside mom and pop shops. Local leaders are getting in on the act, too.

State College borough declared Nov. 25 Small Business Saturday, and the Downtown State College Improvement District registered “as an official neighborhood champion” of the program.

“As such, businesses are able to stop by our office to pick up a variety of promotional items to decorate their storefronts or to give to their customers,” DSCID Executive Director Irene Miller said. “Our staff members have also been out visiting with shop owners and getting their perspective on what they’d like to highlight this holiday shopping season.”

DSCID plans to release video clips to promote the program.

“As the holiday shopping season gears up, we already know it’s not about the gift — it’s about the giving,” she said. “So, this initiative is a way to remind us to give the gift that goes further. Gifts purchased locally also make a statement about how much we love our community and invest in it. Gifts purchased locally support our neighbors who own shops downtown, employ our friends who work downtown and provide a unique atmosphere for our families and friends to enjoy downtown.”

Bellefonte borough Manager Ralph Stewart said the community will offer a courtesy parking program beginning Black Friday. The program will offer free metered parking for two hours through New Year’s Day to draw people to shop small.

“When I am thinking dining out or grabbing a cup of coffee, I think about heading downtown,” Stewart said. “Some of my favorite places are Cool Beans for coffee and the Blonde Bistro for a great dinner.”

Other initiatives in Bellefonte during the holidays include Santa and the Santa house on the Diamond, the Victorian Christmas event and Santa Express.

“The small businesses in Bellefonte offer uniqueness, atmosphere and most of all a relationship to people,” he said. “There is a good chance you will find a unique and special gift. There is an even better chance that the person waiting on you will remember your name or what you ordered the last time.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli