MANKATO — Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be the headliners of holiday shopping, but wedged between is Small Business Saturday, also known as Shop Small, which encourages shopper to hit locally owned businesses.
In Mankato and North Mankato, about 45 businesses will take part. The local effort started loosely a few years ago and has been more formalized the past two years.
Peggy Grey of Mary Lue's Yarn and Ewe said the event is a big boost. "Oh, absolutely it helps. People have really taken notice of it."
The shop local concept was founded by American Express in 2010. "They're doing a lot of commercials reminding people this is important — if you don't support local businesses, they won't be here," Grey said.
She's been involved in Shop Small for a few years and says she no longer has to explain what it is. "It's growing, becoming more of a movement. I encounter few people who don't know what Shop Small Saturday is."
A few stores joined the event years ago, but two years ago the City Center Partnership began coordinating a larger, more unified effort.
"Our goal is to get people down to the City Center and visit local businesses," said Megan Flanagan, director of the partnership. "One thing we hope is people may find a business they didn't know was here. There have been several new ones that have opened."
She said the number of businesses involved this year has nearly doubled from the last couple of years.
The partnership is offering a Passport Program where shoppers can pick up a passport at a participating business.
After visiting 10 small businesses in City Center and getting stamps at each (no purchase required) people can enter a raffle. Each participating store will be offering a raffle prize. People can drop their passport at any location and pick which raffle they want to enter.
People must visit all three shopping zones and get four stamps from the red zone, two stamps from the green zone, two stamps from the blue zone, and two stamps from any zone to enter the raffle.
"We want to make sure people understand everything that is available in City Center," Flanagan said of the different zones. "There's a lot of great things on Riverfront but we want people to discover things on Park Lane, or Belgrade, or Front Street, too."
Gift wrapping services are available at the Hugo Building, 530 N. Riverfront Dr., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The suggested donation is $1 per gift with proceeds benefiting the Fallenstein Playground. Santa will be there from 10 a.m. to noon.
Merely Players Community Theatre is offering $2 off the purchase of a ticket to The Snow Queen with a Saturday receipt from a City Center Shop Small business.
Not all of the participants are retail stores. The Betsy-Tacy Society, Blue Earth County History Center and Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota are also participating.
Twin Rivers art center will be hosting the second annual artist fair featuring local artists selling fine arts, handcrafted gifts and holiday wreaths.
A list of participating businesses and the zones can be found through a link at: citycentermankato.com.
According to an American Express statement, an estimated 95 million people turn out on the day to shop at small businesses, spending about $15 billion.