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Small businesses see Saturday success

Small businesses see Saturday success
Tanisha Hanson waits as Audrey Finkelson wraps her purchase Monday at Philomathian Religious Books and Gifts in downtown Austin. Customer service is just one reason shoppers and owners alike believe small businesses are the places to shop.

Judy Gerlach wasn't familiar with Small Business Saturday — the lesser-known shopping event wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

She may not have been aware of it, but it seems local shoppers were.

"Saturday was maybe our biggest day since we've been in our new location," said Gerlach, co-manager of Philomathian Religious Books and Gifts.

The store moved to its spot at 310 N. Main St. in October 2010.

Philomathian's business was good on Friday, Gerlach said, but that was with extended hours for the kick-off of Christmas in the City.


"We were open into the evening hours," she said, "and it was good, but we were only open four hours on Saturday, and it was a very, very good day."

Across the street at Healing Palms Spa, Naomi Thompson got a business boost thanks to Friday's kick-off, but employee vacations kept things quiet Saturday.

"We didn't do any promotions that day," said owner/operator Thompson, "but Friday was great. We've worked hard to establish ourselves."

Almost as important as the sales is the exposure, said Riley Brolsma, co-owner of Ooh La La! Handbags and Accessories.

"Any time we can get folks downtown and through all of our businesses down here, that leads to good things for everybody," he said, "and it opens up a whole new door of possibilities for the shopper, too."

His store's weekend was "very good.

"We always get so many new customers in who say, 'Oh, we didn't know you were here,'" Brolsma said.

"So many of them are surprised by the affordability of shopping on Main Street," he said. "Folks tend to have the idea that things are a little bit more expensive down here, and that isn't always the case."


Both he and Gerlach pride themselves on the unique offerings in the downtown shops, and something else you'll be hard-pressed to find at those big-box stores: Free gift-wrapping.

"We provide it," Gerlach said, "and they do use it."

While the economic boost is welcome, especially after a tough few years, Brolsma has another idea.

"It would be great to make every Saturday small business Saturday," he said.

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