Sherri Hupp and Kris Rykhus didn’t let the light rain and slush keep them from supporting local shops during Saturday’s Shop Small event.

“I love the little shops and what they’ve done with the downtown,” Hupp said.

Rykhus said she likes the unique offerings at local shops. “You can’t get that at the mall where it’s all cookie cutter. That’s why I didn’t do Black Friday. And you can’t get this experience online.”

Shoppers were also able to pick up a passport at any participating business, and if they got it stamped at 10 businesses they could enter drawings for gift packages valued at about $100. The Passport Program is coordinated by the City Center Partnership.

The annual event is often one of the biggest sales day of the year for many small businesses.

“It’s fabulous. People come out of the woodwork to support us,” said Kim Stanton, owner of Encore Consignment & Bridal Boutique in Old Town.

Every year she gets first-time visitors.

“Even though I’ve been here 16 years I get people who walk in the door and say, “I didn’t know you were here.’ “

Like other stores she was handing out some goodies for customers and running promotions.

“Everyone’s in a good mood, it’s fun.”

Deb Morin, owner of Neutral Groundz coffee and home goods shop on Belgrade Avenue in North Mankato, said Shop Small is a game changer.

“It’s huge. Last year it was my biggest shopping day of the year and I think this year will be bigger. People have been asking about it for weeks.”

She was offering $10 off every $50 in purchases, setting out goodies and holding drawings throughout the day.

Morin, in business for three years, said she’s gaining a larger, steadier clientele.

“More people know we’re here. People find us and they tell their friends.”

Carl Nordmeier, owner of Tune Town, said Shop Small is his third biggest sales day of the year.

“Record Store Day is first, then Black Friday, then this.” Record Store Day, the third Saturday in April, is a national day supporting record stores.

He said the passport promotion helps because all participating businesses are listed on the passports and it encourages people to visit more stores to become eligible for the drawings.

“We get a a lot of people who come in who’ve never been in here before. They’re like, ‘This is great. It’s cool,’ “ he said.

“It definitely helps sales and is a boost for small business.”

Shop Small, also known as Small Business Saturday started in 2010 and is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since it started in 2010, Small Business Saturday spending has reached an estimated $103 billion.

The event was created by American Express, which launched the promotion in the midst of the recession to encourage people to do holiday shopping at local stores.

There are more than 500,000 small businesses across the state. Minnesota’s small businesses employ more than one million people, 48% of all employees in the state, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

DEED estimates that when someone spends a dollar at a small business, about 67 cents of it, on average, stays in the local community.

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