Regional leaders gathered at the Metro Centre shopping center Tuesday to promote the mom-and-pop store's version of Black Friday -- Small Business Saturday.
Organizers look to make the Saturday after Thanksgiving a day for consumers to forget about big box stores for awhile and frequent small businesses during the holiday shopping season.
"There are two dozen regional partners on board helping promote the initiative including area chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, tourism groups, cities, counties and community groups from Ottawa to Canton and from Peoria to Bloomington," said Anaise Berry, director of the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway.
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis encouraged area residents to support small businesses, calling them "the backbone of any community."
State Rep. Dave Leitch, R-Peoria, said he liked to shop small whenever possible.
Eric Brinker, the president of Metro Centre, said his shopping center was a good spot to reflect on the importance of small business since the center was comprised of 47 small stores.
"A small business doesn't have to be independently owned. We have some that are franchises but locally-owned," he said.
"It's a day that shows that small shops can compete with big boxes. The shopping experience (in small stores) is much more relaxed with more emphasis on a personal relationship for the customer."
Nancy Whalen, owner of Flying D Dance, Gym & Swim at Metro Centre, added that a small business can sometimes provide products not available in the larger stores.
"Take dance shoes. Some of the big boxes just don't sell them anymore because they can't sell enough of them," she said. Whalen added that small outlets can often match or beat the prices at large stores.
Small businesses also are getting involved with social media and electronic marketing to reach their customers, she said.
Frank Abdnour, owner of the Spotted Cow restaurant, 718 W. Glen Ave., said he was planning something special on Small Business Saturday.
"We're embracing our customers on Saturday. I'm planning on unveiling an ice cream viewing room -- where you watch us make the ice cream," he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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