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Small Business Saturdy in El Centro
Wendy Luevano, owner of Simply @ Home antiques in downtown El Centro, shows off a refurbished vintage tube radio, one of many collectibles discounted for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30. | William Roller photo

Small Business Saturday Matures as Shoppers Opt for Independent Retailers

EL CENTRO — Begun a decade ago to spotlight local independent retailers, Small Business Saturday has stepped out of the shadow of its overbearing relation, Black Friday, with increasing retail participants and customer support.

Closed Nov. 28-29 for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Simply @ Home antiques, collectibles and unique gifts reopened at 10 a.m. on Nov. 30 for this year’s Saturday observation. That was to the delight of its loyal customers and merchant neighbors, several whom dropped by the 569 W. Main Street location to browse, shop or say hello.

The stock is neatly arranged in three main aisles across generous floor space without blocking passage from one merchandise section to another. The shop is run by Wendy Luevano and her mother, Nancy Gaston. Luevano did open on Black Friday in 2017 for several hours but sales were not impressive and she said she did not want to repeat the effort. Luevano contends she cannot compete with big-box retailers and sees no reason to enter their lane.

“When I worked at Best Buy in La Jolla shoppers had tents outside the store waiting the day before Black Friday and that’s crazy,” she said. “I’m hoping to catch some of the Black Friday shoppers this afternoon (Saturday). I know Black Friday is not just Friday anymore.”

Start of a Tradition      

Starting a decade ago during the depths of the recession, the American Express credit card company launched Small Business Saturday to reboot the economy devastated by home foreclosures and business failures. Spending on the day has reached an estimated $103 billion, the firm reported on its website.

Starting two weeks ago on the Simply @ Home Facebook page, Luevano began promoting selected discounts from throughout her inventory.

“Here you’ll see so many one-of-a-kind things. Where else can you find a refurbished AM tube radio that sounds as good as the day it first sold?” she asked. “We got handmade fishing lures and vintage battle swords. Where are you going to find that? Maybe eBay.”

Simply @ Home is a downtown store anyone can walk into and still get gift-wrapped merchandise, something many large retailers have abandoned, she explained.

“I think Small Business Saturday is great,” said Luevano. “Do I think it brings in more business? I’m not certain. But we had a lady in this morning who bought a small item and she actually knew about Small Business Saturday. So I told her, I really appreciate her purchase.”

Vintage Resale Shop Sees Impact

One block west, Tiendique vintage clothes, shoes and jewelry, was extending Black Friday sales through Saturday, explained Christian Pimentel, sales associate. Owner Liz Rodriguez was out of town for the holiday. Tiendique opened Friday from 3-8 p.m. but the foot traffic was a little slow because many were at the malls visiting big box stores, noted Pimentel.

“Today is really busy and we have a lot of support from loyal customers, some new faces and people we haven’t seen for months, popping up,” said Pimentel. “Today, everything on the ground floor is 20 percent off. Clothes and shoes on the second floor are 30 to 50 percent off.”

Tiendique did not open on Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday, Dec. 2-3, but resumed business on Dec. 4.

“I believe Small Business Saturday helps bring in shoppers,” said Pimentel. “I think it brings in people who tend to ignore small business. But, honestly, this day itself helps to compete with the big retailers.”

Appreciation for New Institution

An El Centro institution since 1952, Green’s Jewelry & Gifts, just one block north of Main St. at 670 Broadway, sells from a well-stocked showroom of unique diamond, gold, pearl, semi-precious stones and silver jewelry. Popular brands include Stuller, Hot Diamonds, Bulova & Citizen, as well as clothing lines and gifts. Scott DeVoy has owned the business since 1985.

“Everything in the store is up to 50 percent off on holiday and gift items,” he said. “It’s our way of thanking our loyal customers for shopping here throughout the year.”

Every year since Small Business Saturday started Green’s has participated and repeat customers have become accustomed to the concept, noted DeVoy.

“It’s a good way to kick start Christmas shopping,” he said. “It also stimulates customers to order custom pieces and we’ve always been a custom shop. Small Business Saturday reminds people of the holiday and some are already Christmas shopping. Saturdays have been real busy so it’s starting to work.”

Although part of a chain, Ashley HomeStore branches are individually owned, explained Mario Vizcarra, general manager of the El Centro location at 1950 N. Imperial Ave. Its Black Friday sale continued through Cyber Monday. On Small Business Saturday the store had a live-stream drawing for a 50-inch smart TV. Customers could also win three tickets to see pop singer Ariana Grande perform in Phoenix on Dec. 12.

Since December is a bit slow for furniture stores, Ashley will hold two VIP events for in-kind benefits such as free delivery or a free recliner with the purchase of a sofa, explained Vizcarra.

“Christmas shopping is not a big percentage of our business since furniture is not typically gift items,” said Vizcarra. “But Small Business Saturday is divine. It’s exciting because it’s happening for all our merchant neighbors and you want everybody to do well.”

This story is featured in the Dec 05, 2019 e-Edition.

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