Small Business Saturday in South Bend staves off damper from supply chain delays, COVID

·4 min read
Ken Peczkowski, left, watches as Luke Freeman rolls a set of dice to determine his discount at Griffon Bookstore on Saturday, November 27, 2021.
Ken Peczkowski, left, watches as Luke Freeman rolls a set of dice to determine his discount at Griffon Bookstore on Saturday, November 27, 2021.

SOUTH BEND — After a subdued holiday shopping season during the height of the pandemic last winter, downtown South Bend was stirring — if not quite bustling — again Saturday as shoppers perused through the area’s locally-owned stores on Small Business Saturday.

Early risers filled the Dainty Maid Co., while a few people waiting to get into PEGGS, huddled around heat lamps outside the restaurant before taking a lap or two around the core of downtown. Across the river, dozens of shoppers walked around the Howard Holiday Market in Howard Park, which featured vendors selling their wares out of tents.

It may not be fully “back to normal,” but it’s a vast improvement over last year’s pandemic-fueled downturn for many small business owners.

“Last year, people were still trying to help however they could. This year people are actually coming back,” said Josi Doyle, owner of Idle Hours Bookshop. “These events like Small Business Saturday really help because it reminds people to shop locally.”

Black Friday can be “hit or miss," Doyle said after putting a shelf of books marked at $1 and an American Flag outside her Michigan Street storefront, but Small Business Saturday is her biggest day of the year.

Shoppers, like Margaret Morgan, were also happy to be back walking around downtown despite the typical, cold November weather, most without masks. Morgan, who came to the pop-up stores in Howard Park with her friends on Saturday, said she didn’t shop in person last year because of concerns about COVID, but is glad to be back.

More:Experts say be flexible and prompt with this year's holiday shopping season

“It’s really great to be out and then we have these events. It’s really nice to be able to enjoy the community again,” Morgan said.

Luke Freeman, who exited Griffon Bookstore with an armful of figurines from the game Dungeons & Dragons, said he’s bought from large online stores in the past, but has found there are advantages to shopping local.

“I get a lot of miniatures off Amazon, but you have to wait for them,” Freeman said. “Here you get to look at them beforehand and they have a wider and better selection.”

It doesn’t hurt that Griffon has some unique deals on Small Business Saturday, with customers rolling three 10-sided die and adding the numbers up to get their discount for their purchase that day. Ken Peczkowski, an owner of the Griffon, said customers on Black Friday decided their discounts by drawing from a deck of playing cards.

Other stores in downtown offered deals ranging from buy-one-get-one-free offers to 20%-off bargains.

Supply Chain issues

Small Business Saturday, which was coined in 2010 by American Express as a method to help small businesses rebound from the Great Recession, stands in contrast to Black Friday, which is geared toward larger retailers.

However, with disruptions and delays to global supply chains, national brands have fewer products in stores and less reliable delivery times. That gives smaller businesses an advantage, said Kathy White, owner of CircaArts Gallery on East Colfax Avenue.

“I deal with local artists so … None of my stuff is waiting on a ship anywhere, so come get it, I have it,” White said with a smile, adding that her Black Friday was “phenomenal.”

More:Experts say be flexible and prompt with this year's holiday shopping season

Supply chain delays are also not an issue for Doyle’s used bookstore, as well as for Jenna Trethewey’s home jewelry business, The Olive Tale. Trethewey started her business making earrings out of repurposed paper from greeting cards and books nearly two years ago and now uses local suppliers for her paper and has even found a Mishawaka-based laser engraving partner.

Set up Saturday morning at the Howard Holliday Market, Trethewey said the pandemic caused consumers to start looking locally before the recent supply chain disruptions.

“I feel like it was the best time for me to start my business. People were online; people were shopping local,” she said.

However, even some local stores have felt the supply crunch. At Griffon, where Peczkowski often orders games on requests from customers, delays in shipping have made pickups more inconvenient.

“We would order from our distributors on a Monday and we would have the product here by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest,” Peczkowski said. “Now we’re lucky to get it the same week.”

Still, Peczkowski said sales have improved drastically from last year — a testament to the store's loyal, local customers.

“The entire year has been above expectations," he said. "It’s nice to have it because the year before was definitely a downer."

Email Marek Mazurek at mmazurek@sbtinfo.com. Follow him on Twitter: @marek_mazurek

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Small Business Saturday brings people to South Bend despite supply chain, COVID

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