Small shops in Copley Township are hoping a trolley will help get their holiday sales rolling.
Saturday marks the sixth year for Small Business Saturday, a time in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday when consumers are urged to shop small.
“We’re hoping people say: ‘Look, there’s a trolley ride. I’ve never been to that shop before,’?” said Judy Gager, owner of a Copley shop along the route of the free Trolley Shop Hop, which will run from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday along Cleveland-Massillon Road.
American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 to focus attention on small businesses the day after the heavily promoted Black Friday and coming before the online-focused Cyber Monday.
Last year, an estimated 88 million consumers shopped small on Small Business Saturday, up 14.9 percent from 2013, according to a survey released by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Many businesses, whether they accept AmEx or not, have embraced the day, with some offering open houses, contests, discounts on merchandise, visits from Santa and in the Copley merchants’ case, a trolley.
The red and green trolley will make half a dozen stops at individual stores, or clusters of shops, including River City Gift Shoppe, where Grager operates Judy’s Ice Cream and a gift shop. Go to www.facebook.com/CopleyOhio for more information on the Shop Hop.
“We have some great shops in Copley, but they are sort of spread out along the road [Cleveland-Massillon],” said Allison Chrien, acting chairperson for the new Copley Circle Advisory Board. “The trolley will make it so much easier to explore and find the shops that are there.”
Giving shops exposure
Some may question what good one day can do for the fortunes of small businesses. But Bob Thurber, with the 29-year-old Thurber’s Jewelers in downtown Wadsworth, said the day gives small shops exposure.
Local businesses and merchant groups promote the day, as does American Express through www.shopsmall.org.
“It gives people a chance to hear our story,” Thurber said.
Someone may stop in Saturday, he said, “and we may not see them for a year, but then their son gets engaged, and they say, ‘You know, there’s a store in Wadsworth and they do things a bit different.’?”
Thurber and other Wadsworth merchants are going all out for the day, teaming up with the Wadsworth Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Wadsworth organization.
Thurber’s Jewelers will offer 60 percent discounts on 400 items, including Seiko and Citizen watches and items that have been in the store’s inventory since earlier this year.
“It’s a good opportunity to move some things along,” Thurber said.
His daughter-in-law, Ashley Thurber, made hundreds of Oreo cookies dipped in chocolate for the occasion. Visitors who chose the right cookie will get a gift certificate to the store.
Wadsworth’s Small Business Saturday will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thurber’s will open at its regular Saturday hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wadsworth Community Radio will set up speakers in its downtown studio and broadcast during the event, promoting various activities, including lunch at the American Legion Post 170 downtown, where Santa is scheduled to make an appearance.
In Barberton, downtown merchants are again combining the annual Christmas Walk and Lake Anna Lighting with Small Business Saturday. Information is online at www.barbertonareajaycees.com.
In Medina, many merchants in the city’s downtown historic district will open early.
And in Kent, shoppers can look for hidden “sweet treats” in shops to enter a contest for gift certificates from downtown merchants. Go to www.facebook.com/MainStreetKent for details.
Stagecoach Antiques in Akron is among the small businesses nationwide boasting a blue and white “Shop Small” banner, supplied to merchants by American Express.
Stagecoach, a West Market Street fixture for decades, has been offering Black Friday/Small Business Saturday discounts since Monday, President Eileen Moats said. Items over $10 are 20 percent off, while items $10 and under are 50 percent off through Saturday.
At the northern edge of the city’s downtown, owners of Zeber-Martell clay gallery/studio, decided to combine their popular open house with Small Business Saturday this year for a celebration that will include a small handmade clay ornament with any purchase.
Customers like the day for more than its freebies, co-owner Michael Martell said.
“It’s really a way they can say small businesses count and they would miss them if they were gone,” he said.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.