It was a good “Cider Monday” at the Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul.

“Cyber Monday” is the burgeoning online promotion driven by the big-box likes of Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart to stimulate holiday sales. It follows an ultra-pivotal weekend of shopping that starts Thanksgiving night.

Cider Monday is employed by some independent retailers.

“We’ve done it for a couple of years,” said Holly Weinkauf, owner of 11-employee Red Balloon. “It’s not high-tech, although we did use an electric hot pot to warm the cider. Customers seem to like it. We had a good day.”

The fourth quarter, just as at the huge retailers, makes the year at Red Balloon. The tactics are just different at the 32-year-old Grand Avenue shop, which also sells educational toys and games. For example, last Saturday local authors volunteered to work as booksellers and make recommendations to customers as part of a national initiative by independent booksellers.

On Monday, Santa Claus will work a shift. But instead of kids telling Santa what they want, Santa asks kids to select a book for kids in need. Red Balloon matches each customer gift with a book.

The beneficiary is “Project Reach” of the St. Paul Public Schools, which distributes books at the holidays to homeless and transient kids in the district.

“Last year we provided 600 books between us and customers,” Weinkauf said. “The kids get their own books. They really seem to like that.”

Those independent retailers know their communities and a bit about marketing, too.

Local SBA lending rises in 2016

The improving economy is reflected in the growing loan portfolios of Minnesota small business lenders. The Minneapolis-based Minnesota district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) posted a record year working with small-to-large lenders that resulted in 1,674 business loans that totaled $506 million in the year ended Sept. 30. The SBA also provided partial guarantees on 275 real estate-related loans to business owners.

Minnesota ranks 12th in the nation in the number of loan guarantees and 15th in the nation in total dollars out of 68 district offices, according to Andy Amoroso, deputy district director of the Minnesota office.

The SBA generally guarantees 50 to 75 percent of a loan, giving bankers confidence on credit to borrowers who otherwise may not qualify.

“Banks are submitting more loans to us and they are making more loans,” Amoroso said. “There is real demand and more competition.”

Wells Fargo was the biggest Minnesota SBA lender at $69.8 million loaned to 340 customers.