Shoppers turn out for Small Business Saturday

Daniel Cullip, of Morristown, tells Santa Claus what he wants for Christmas at Trinkets and Treasures as part of “Small Business Saturday” in downtown Morristown on Saturday.

Cloudy, cool and dreary weather with the threat of precipitation surrounded downtown Morristown on Saturday.

However, the rain held off long enough for the area’s annual “Small Business Saturday” event to operate as planned. Steve Cooper, owner of Cooper’s Variety Mall, said business started off slowly, but picked up as the day went along.

“Small Business Saturday makes a big difference for us and the other stores (in downtown),” Cooper said.

Created by American Express in 2010 and designated as the Saturday after Thanksgiving, “Small Business Saturday” celebrates the impact small businesses have on communities across the country by imploring cities to shop locally.

HomeTrust Bank was the primary local sponsor of the event, which has participated in the promotion since the beginning.

Proprietors and planners said the weather was actually beneficial for the event.

“Cold weather puts people in the holiday spirit, and makes them want to shop,” said Brooke Singleton, Crossroads Downtown Partnership events manager.

“The weather has been great. Instead of people going to the parks, the weather brings in more traffic to downtown,” said Chris Harville, owner of East Tennessee Diamond Company and Crossroads board member, whose store has been in downtown Morristown since 1982. “We’re seeing a lot of new faces, which is great for us.”

Carla Cullop of Morristown went shopping with her son, Daniel, during the event – and took advantage of seeing Santa Claus at Trinkets and Treasures. Carla Cullop said she avoids “Black Friday” to support the local businesses of her hometown.

“It’s downtown,” she said. “I love the small businesses, and I want to support them

“This is home.”

David Craft and his wife Brandie are regular shoppers in downtown Morristown, and would trade their experiences for any other place in the area.

“We just really want to shop local, and keep the money in the community.” David Craft. “It’s about supporting our local businesses, because these are the people who keep downtown going.”

Crossroads gave away coupon books with discounts and specials from 21 local stores, as well as 50 of them having $5 off coupons good at retail and dining businesses downtown, to the first 250 shoppers who walked by its table on Main Street.

Crossroads ran out of booklets by 1:30 p.m., according to Amie Whitworth, Crossroads board president. The coupons are spendable from “Small Business Saturday” to Christmas Downtown on Dec. 13, and shoppers began reaping the savings immediately.

“Some people thought they had to buy the (coupon booklets), but they were free,” Whitworth said. “We want to encourage these shoppers to come downtown for the holiday season – and long after that.”

Rowena’s on Main was one of the businesses which saw the increase in traffic on “Small Business Saturday,” and owner Rowena Smith said it was like taking a trip into the city’s past, when downtown Morristown was the place to be for holiday shopping.

“The community always comes out to support us on Small Business Saturday,” she said. “It’s like an old-time Christmas.

“The smells and sounds tell you Christmas is coming.”

The Morristown Artists Association judged the best Christmas window decorations – and selected Cooper’s Variety Mall for the third straight year. Main Street Christian Bookstore finished in second place, and Gigi’s on Main took third.

“We go all out (for the holidays). We’re very competitive,” Cooper said. “I really have to thank (employee) Gwen Caldwell, because she did a lot of work with the decorations, and she’s the reason we won again.”

Overall, Whitworth said she was pleased with the community involvement in “Small Business Saturday.”

“The sidewalks have been full since we started this morning,” she said. “I think it’s been successful.”