Storefronts in The District will participate this weekend in Small Business Saturday, a day-long event encouraging people to shop locally.
Following Black Friday and preceding Cyber Monday, the shopping event in Columbia's downtown area promotes spending at local businesses. Founded in 2010 by American Express, the day has become a staple shopping tradition in communities nationwide. The district has participated in the program for many years.
“Small Business Saturday is probably one of the busiest shopping days for local downtown businesses,” said Munir Mohammad, owner of Boone Olive Oil Co. and Shortwave Coffee.
Boone Olive Oil Co. and Shortwave Coffee are just two of over 600 locally owned restaurants, retailers and bars in the district.
“It's just a day to celebrate our small businesses, you know, as opposed to going to a Walmart on a Black Friday, try and support your local businesses,” said Nickie Davis, executive director of the district. “Sixty cents of every dollar that is spent locally stays locally, so you know, that helps your next door neighbors, that helps your kids, that helps the community.”
Many businesses were able to participate in the shopping event last year through their online storefronts or limited-contact shopping experience in the midst of the pandemic.
"We just did things differently," Kalle LeMone, with Nourish Café & Market, said. "Even though it was difficult, I truly think our community did the best they could to support local shops and restaurants."
For Skylark Bookshop, a lot of its sales came from their online storefront at last years' Small Business Saturday.
"I'm sure that will shift in an in-person direction this year. But we haven't changed too many of our policies throughout all of this. No doubt expect some more chaos, but generally the same universe," Skylark Bookshop manager Carrie Koepke said.
Davis said that some businesses will still be offering online shopping and curbside pickup if customers do not feel comfortable going into stores this year.
Some Columbia business owners have been getting creative to encourage customers to buy local even if they have concerns about in-person shopping.
“Giving the gift of gift cards is really huge,” Lydia Melton, founder and proprietor of Gunter Hans - European Pub & Café, said. “It gets new people in the door.”
Some participating shops and restaurants, including Gunter Hans, will have promotional specials throughout the day.
Staffing shortages may cause business hours to vary, Davis added. She encouraged customers to check store websites and Facebook pages for the most up-to-date information.
"Especially with all the supply chain issues, I hope that people are even more incentivized to shop with local restaurants and retailers,” LeMone said.
Reporter Adrian Maddox contributed to this report.