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Shoppers support local businesses

Nov. 24, 2012 @ 10:05 PM

HUNTINGTON -- While the crowds might not have been as aggressive as they were on Black Friday, shoppers who came out for Small Business Saturday in Huntington were just as enthusiastic to catch a deal and find something unique downtown.

Huntington small businesses joined thousands of other businesses throughout the country by participating in Small Business Saturday, which now is in its third year.

The event was founded by American Express in 2010, when the company first offered special discounts and deals for small business that accepted the company's credit card. However, the event has blossomed to include basically any small, or even micro, business that wishes to participate, and many businesses offer their own discounts for the day, regardless of whether or not they accept American Express cards.

For small business owners and supporters like Sherry Houvouras, who has owned two children's apparel shops in Huntington and Ceredo and who was out Saturday on behalf of Downtown Huntington Partners, there is no better way to support one's community than to shop at local businesses as often as possible.

"I think it's easy for people to forget about small businesses when it comes to purchasing the things they really need," said Houvouas. "The way our system is now, people's minds tend to go to the mall first. Small Business Saturday is something that puts it in their minds that, "Hey, this business is local, and it has exactly what I need.' Plus, when you go there you know that money is going back into the community."

American Express has estimated 100 million people shopped at independently owned small businesses on Small Business Sunday in 2011.

Data from the U.S. Small Business Administration shows micro and small businesses account for 96 percent of all employers in West Virginia.

That includes Susan Hicks of Barboursville, who owns a catering business called Suzcatering. On Saturday, she played the role of the consumer while she shopped at the Red Caboose at Heritage Station.

She said while she had catered many events at Hertiage Station, she hadn't been able to make it into any of the shops there, and Small Business Saturday was the perfect time for her to start.

"All of the local businesses tend to have more unique items than what you would find in a department store, not to mention in this store everything is made locally," Hicks said. "Of course, you get a more personal experience because the business is smaller, but more importantly you get a better quality because these business owners are putting their names out there in association with these products. They want to make sure they give the right impression."

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