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Consumers asked to 'shop small'

A shopper browses the items at My Sister's Place downtown. Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a day some hope will help local small businesses.

A shopper browses the items at My Sister's Place downtown. Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a day some hope will help local small businesses.

ALBANY — Nestled snuggly between “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” sits a day that is, for some entrepreneurs, one of the biggest opportunities all year to stay in business.

Small Business Saturday is an effort started by credit card giant American Express in 2010 to divert some of the millions of dollars spent during the holiday shopping season into the wallets of small business owners who struggle to compete with giant corporate retailers.

According to Forbes, this renewed focus helped steer more than 100 million consumers into small businesses last year, dumping fresh capital to many struggling businesses.

Locally, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses are spreading the word about Small Business Saturday, urging consumers to consider spending a portion of their holiday budget locally.

Chamber officials went around to local businesses recently and took photographs of them holding up a “Shop Small” doormat and posted the photos on the Chamber Facebook page.

Bil Sadler, who along with his brother, own of Sadler Retirement, is the chairman of the chamber’s Small Business Committee. According to Sadler, supporting small businesses is crucial to supporting the economy as a whole.

“According to the Census Bureau, 98 percent of businesses with employees have less than 100 employees,” Sadler said. “Approximately three-fourths of all businesses, with or without employees, are self-employed individuals. These small businesses generate sales taxes, property taxes, pay rent, utilities, and create local jobs. So what’s the impact? Imagine if we didn’t have the small business — 98 out of 100 businesses would be closed.”

Missy Whitney, the owner of My Sister’s Place, a French market-style boutique downtown, said that small businesses are the lifeblood of communities and that, unlike corporate retailers, the money spent in the stores stays in the community rather than shipped to a headquarters usually located in another state.

“We are your friends and we are your neighbors,” Whitney says. “We greet you with a warm smile and a hello. Customer service is still alive and thriving in small businesses. It was small businesses that built this country and it’s up to all of us to support them.”

Across town at Woods Gallery on Meredyth Drive, Darby Espy is preparing to spend another holiday season doing pretty much the same thing he’s done for the last 20-plus years — helping his customers.

“There are some fine corporate businesses out there, but one thing that we feel we have that’s difficult for them to do is to encourage customers to take items out of the store on approval and try them out,” Espy says. “We’ve got a customer base that we just about know and so we feel comfortable letting the merchandise out of the store and that’s something that just isn’t practical at Walmart or Target.”

Espy, who established his business credentials at Gayfers where he worked for 20 years, says that it’s difficult for large corporate retailers to offer the same level of customer service that smaller businesses can offer.

“As soon as our customers walk into the door, we show them more respect than you can just about imagine,” Espy said. “If you treat people with respect and provide them with a quality product at what we believe are competitive prices, they’ll stick with you.”