Small Business Saturday draws not-so-small crowds as Coloradans turn out to support their local shops

Sunday, 26 November 2017, 08:13:42 AM. People turn out on Small Business Saturday to support their local shops — and get some holiday shopping done.

The historic Highlands Masonic Lodge was full of commotion Saturday.

Crowds of families, parents-to-be and friends walked up to the lodge on Federal Boulevard and then streamed through four floors of vendors at the Horseshoe Holiday Market. Drivers searched for open parking spots in the surrounding neighborhood, a few giving up and leaving their cars in front of no-parking signs.

It was the start of the annual two-day holiday market but, more important, it was Small Business Saturday.

And while people filled the lodge to its brim, customers across town showed up to at least one local store at Belmar in Lakewood before opening and Mayor Michael Hancock hopped from Stanley Marketplace to Cherry Creek North to South Broadway.

Roughly 164 million Americans are expected to go shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend, 71 million of them on Saturday, according to estimates from a survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation. Of those shopping Saturday, 76 percent were doing so specifically to support Small Business Saturday.

“It’s nice because you expect to be really busy for Black Friday. Then Small Business Saturday is the following day and you’re even busier,” said Kim Spence, owner of My Favorite Things.

The store, which sells seasonal fare, has been open for 23 years, traditionally on West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. The store’s roof was severely damaged by a May hailstorm and it caved-in before the contractor could fix it. But Spence was able to connect with Belmar and sign a lease quickly.

My Favorite Things is one of 16 small businesses at Belmar. Another one is A Touch of Colorado, a store that sells products made by more than 360 Coloradans. Its owner Holly Antoun is the type to recognize customers when they walk in and keep treats behind the counter for their dogs.

She said the shop doesn’t see much business on Black Friday as people tend to be focused on big boxes. But for her, the holiday season really picks up on Small Business Saturday, continuing to build until the panicked, week-before-Christmas shoppers arrive.

Small businesses make up more than 80 percent of all businesses in Denver and employ nearly half of the city’s workforce.

Although the holiday has existed in various forms, American Express formalized it in 2010, attempting to spur local businesses out of the recession. Businesses said they tend to see their regulars support them on the day as well as new faces who are learning about their stores for the first time.

At the holiday market, Kerrin Pogozelski sat among her handcrafted leather bags. Pogozelski, who owns BuxieJo Bags, suspected that the large crowd was a mix of people trying to support local businesses and others who were just trying to get their holiday shopping in.

She said Denverites take a lot of pride in their city, and many show that by supporting local businesses.

“Right now, I think there’s a really great connection between things that you buy and where it comes from,” she said.

Paula Romero, a jewelry maker who started Fire of Joy a year ago, was diligently helping those who paused by her booth a couple floors below Pogozelski. Originally from Ecuador, Romero said Denver is a city of makers and doers.

“It should be more often,” she said of Small Business Saturday. “It should be a whole week.”

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