Anthony Davis/The Herald-Dispatch Emily Adkins and Tina Elkins from Proctorville sort through the racks of clothing at Birds of a Feather Boutique on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in downtown Huntington.

HUNTINGTON - While Black Friday is known nationwide for its stampedes of shoppers looking for the best deals on items big and small, Old Main Emporium in downtown Huntington focused on the local Thundering Herd during Small Business Saturday.

Though "small" in name, Small Business Saturday has blossomed to become a $14 billion event nationwide, and Huntington was no stranger to the homegrown support Saturday, during the 6th annual Small Business Saturday.

While some business owners mentioned the rainy weather as a possible deterrent for holiday shopping, Old Main owner Sara Deel had an additional concern on her mind.

"I think people are upset about the (Marshall University football) loss yesterday," said Deel, who noted there was a high volume of traffic in her store Saturday. "We had a winning season. It was a good season for us. Ten percent of our sales go back to the university, so what we do helps the university."

The way Old Main gives back to Marshall and the way other local businesses contribute to the community was a common theme among business owners Saturday, who said they are just trying to give back to Huntington what they have received from its residents.

"Huntington has been really good to us in supporting our business as well as the other counties in the Tri-State," said Whitney Epling, who co-owns Birds of a Feather Boutique in Heritage Station with her sister, Lindsey Ellis. "It's really cool that we've been able to grow this big. This was a hobby we started out with, and our dream has become a reality thanks to the support we've gotten here."

Birds of a Feather Boutique offered a variety of promotions for Saturday's occasion, including buy-one-get-one deals and free accessories with certain purchases.

Epling said she and Ellis living in Huntington also gives them a better understanding of local customers. They make sure they keep their wares affordable, saying they rarely have an item in the store that costs more than $50.

"We felt like there was a need for a shop like ours, a place where we wanted to shop and where we could charge prices we were comfortable paying," Epling said. "We wanted to have it here in Huntington to serve our families, friends, our college and our community."

Even without the deals, residents from throughout the Tri-State, and the country, were drawn to local businesses in honor of the occasion.

Even President Barack Obama got in on the small business action by taking his teenage daughters, Malia and Sasha, shopping at locally-owned businesses in Washington.

He even joked that his purchasing nine books at a local book store was "the highlight of the girls' Small Business Saturday."

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also issued a statement encouraging residents to go out and support local businesses, saying small businesses represent about 96 percent of all employers in West Virginia.

"These creative companies include artists in media from fiber to forged metal, bakers who can whip up a mouthwatering pie or the perfect pepperoni roll, and restaurants that cater to tastes from spicy curries to meatloaf like mom used to make," Tomblin said in the statement. "West Virginia small businesses produce a range of goods that make great holiday gifts including Fiesta dinnerware, collegiate apparel, fishing sinkers, marbles, sandals, saunas, artisan salt, and hand-blown glass.

"Chances are good that these entrepreneurs and their employees are people you know. They are our friends and neighbors. They are the parents who volunteer with you for school events and the helping hands on civic projects."

Katarena Jarrell, manager of The Red Caboose in Heritage Station, said shopping local is a way that consumers can be sure that they not only know where the product they purchased came from, but also to know where their money is going.

"These items are the livelihood of the people who live here," Jarrell said. "People like to see where their product is coming from, and when it's local, they can be sure it will be a specialty item as well. You're helping out a local person, a local artist, who loves what they are doing. You also know where you can find them to get whatever you need."

Overall, Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to support a town's entire well-being, Deel said.

"I would encourage people to shop more mindfully, to really think about what they're doing with their money, and what spending their money will translate to," Deel said. "Will it just finance the stockholders for another big box store, or will you see some return into the community?"


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