A few years ago, fashion designers Kimberly Jurek and Jennifer Chilstrom realized that few retailers in the Twin Cities showcased local fashion labels. So in 2013, they founded the south Minneapolis boutique Showroom, which carries 100 percent locally designed clothing and accessories.
This year, the two have assumed yet another role — community organizers. They signed up to be official “neighborhood champions” of 2015’s Small Business Saturday. Showroom is banding together with its Lyn-Lake neighbors (Midwest Makeup Supply, Hair Police salon, and tattoo shop Tatus by Koré) to offer a special on Saturday: $100 gift certificates for the price of $75 at each location.
“We decided to partner with the neighborhood because we figured having all our voices together would be more impactful,” Jurek explained. “We don’t have the kind of advertising dollars that huge conglomerates have — word of mouth is what keeps us open.”
Small Business Saturday, which takes place annually the day after Black Friday, was founded by American Express in 2010 to promote small, locally owned businesses. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday promise major discounts from big-box retailers, Small Business Saturday takes a different tack. Though some shops offer discounts, most cannot. Instead, Small Business Saturday encourages full-price shopping — sometimes with bonuses, such as free refreshments, gifts with purchase, trunk shows, discounted gift cards and in-store events. (See sidebar for fashion-oriented events.)
The owner of Excelsior boutique Golden Rule Collective, which opened in May, is taking Saturday as an opportunity to partner with some of her favorite small businesses and celebrate the Twin Cities creative community. Erin Kate Duininck asked St. Paul floral studio Munster Rose to create a “temporary living installation,” where shoppers can get a professional portrait taken. Get there early — the first 75 shoppers get a free espresso drink by Coffee Cart Mpls.
“The talent pool in Minneapolis is so deep,” Duininck said. “It’s not about posting big numbers — it’s a day to come together and celebrate community, small business and Excelsior.”
The Small Business Saturday movement appears to be growing: In 2014, a reported $14.3 billion was spent with independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday, an increase of 2.1 percent from 2013. In the meantime, there has been a growing backlash against Black Friday, led by outdoor-goods retailer REI, which closed its 143 stores the day after Thanksgiving as part of its #OptOutside initiative.
One local retailer promoting #OptOutside is North Loop men’s store Askov Finlayson. For every person who posts an Instagram of an outdoor adventure this weekend and tags @askovfinlayson and #TeamNorth, the shop will donate $1 to Climate Generation, an environmental nonprofit founded by Arctic explorer Will Steger. True to the store’s philanthropic bent, it will also donate 10 percent of all sales from Friday through Monday to the organization.
“It’s a time when many stores are competing on who can open the earliest, or who can offer the best doorbuster,” said Askov Finlayson co-owner Eric Dayton. “We wanted to do something more meaningful.”
The Foundry Home Goods, kitty-corner from Askov Finlayson, is also putting an altruistic spin on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Owner Anna Hillegass said the store will donate all its profits from Friday and Saturday sales to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Hillegass’ brother-in-law was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer in 2013 and is now cancer-free, she said, thanks to the organization.
“Small Business Saturday is a nice antidote [to Black Friday], but I wanted to do something more,” she said. “It feels good to kick off the holiday season giving rather than taking.”
Jahna Peloquin is the style editor of Minnesota Monthly and is a freelance writer and stylist in the Twin Cities.