Downtown Bellefonte Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823
By Serge Bielanko
What started out ten years ago as a nationwide attempt to shine a light on a vanishing species has become one of Bellefonte's best shopping days of the year. I'm talking about Small Business Saturday, of course, which is coming up on November 30th. Okay, granted it was started by a BIG business, American Express, buy hey, even colossal entities can do something awesome for the little guy every now and then, right?
I mean, especially if it helps them in the long run, too, you know?
So it goes.
A decade later, here we are looking at Small Business Saturday 2019 through entirely different eyeballs then we did back when it was just a baby bird. Gone are the 'Pffft' dismissals of the day as yet another commercialized exploitation. In their place? Well, the proof is in the proverbial holiday shopper pudding. Small Business Saturday is alive and well and more popular than ever. Successful small businesses want to be a part of it all. And so do a zillion new hopefuls. Which is a testament to the fact that...ahem ahem,...it WAS and IS a day with its genuine heart in the right place.
And maybe that alone is enough for a small American town like Bellefonte to embrace it beyond all the hoopla. Because this is truly a town BUILT on the backs of small businesses and small business owners and none of us has to squint that hard to see that, know what I mean? Look at photos of downtown in 1955. Or 1975. Or 1855 for that matter! Not much has changed! Circle one of the downtown blocks. In your car, in your boots, in the back of a Victorian Christmas carriage: the end result will be the same. You will witness more small businesses in a few block radius than most comparable towns within, pffft...I'd say within 1,000 miles.
Is that a stretch?
But maybe not.
Small Business Saturday 2019 is a real chance for small business owners here in the borough to strut their well-earned stuff. It takes a certain sort of daring, one might even say...'aplomb' to show up every day and open the doors of a small business in a small town. Lord knows you aren't doing it to get rich. So right off the bat you're a heck of a lot different than most of the other pioneers out there in the financial wilderness. Folks here in Bellefonte seem to open small businesses because they want to earn an honest living independently, by serving their own local community with a service or goods they actually NEED and WANT. If you try and peddle snake oil from a small business, you'll be gone tomorrow. That's just the way Americans roll. But if you serve up personalized encounters along with fair prices and good stuff, well, people will take notice.
I reached out to Ellen Matis, Board President of Downtown Bellefonte Inc, to get her thoughts on why Small Business Saturday means a lot.
"Small Business Saturday is literally one of my favorite days of the year," Matis says. "The Small Business Saturday movement is celebrating 10 years this year. Since then, the day has promoted the effects that shopping small has on communities like Bellefonte."
Yeah, but what makes this particular day any different than just about any other Saturday, or Tuesday, in the small business community?
"Well, in Bellefonte, every day is a great day to shop at our local boutiques, antique shops, and more," agrees Matis. "Or just to grab dinner at one of our restaurants or a craft beverage. However, on Small Business Saturday, there's even more reason to shop small. Local shops are offering discounts and specials just for Small Business Saturday, plus many are holding fun celebrations as well. It's the perfect opportunity to get a head start on holiday shopping, and find unique gifts that you just can't get at big box and department stores. The Borough of Bellefonte has declared (Nov. 30th) a free parking day in all municipal lots and meter spots."
So lots of small businesses in town will be involved. But what do local small business owners really think about this one day a year? Is it special to them or nah?
Turns out, it is.
Downtown Bellefonte Inc. has a really active Facebook page and lately Matis and her gang of thinkers have been posting charming videos of actual Bellefonte small business folks talking about their own ventures and just how much their looking forward to Small Business Saturday 2019.
Check 'em out below. And more importantly, go see them on Saturday, November 30th. Kick off the holiday season by buying some cool stuff from the people who keep Bellefonte independent, eccentric, and American as heck.
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