MIDDLEBURY — Local merchants are offering Addison County shoppers an antidote to the frenzied shopping they may encounter at big box stores on “Black Friday,” the traditional kick off to the holiday shopping season on the day after Thanksgiving.
It is a “Small Business Saturday” raffle — a promotion that seeks to draw local shoppers into Middlebury businesses on the first Saturday after Turkey Day, and, of course, through the month of December.
Dollars spent in town are used by merchants to pay local wages and to buy services from other local vendors, thus having a multiplying effect on the economy. Ultimately, the goal is to keep local businesses healthy and flourishing.
Small Business Saturday in Middlebury will feature a raffle in which customers can win up to $150 in Middlebury Money. Here’s how it works:
Participating businesses will issue raffle tickets to anyone who spends $25 or more at their business on Saturday, Nov. 30. Customers will be asked to provide their name, email and phone number, so they can be contacted if they win. On Monday, Dec. 2, the Better Middlebury Partnership, which is organizing the raffle, will draw the names of three people, who will win $50, $100 and $150, respectively, in Middlebury Money. By awarding Middlebury Money, a kind of scrip that is redeemable at around 100 Middlebury businesses, the promotion keeps people spending in town and thus supporting local businesses.
Shoppers will receive raffle tickets from any participating store, but are only eligible for one ticket per store.
More than 40 local businesses are participating from all areas of town — the Marble Works, Route 7 South, Exchange and Seymour streets, Merchants Row and Main Street. Participants range from purveyors of food and drinks to providers of wellness and beauty services to traditional retailers.
Emily Blistein, who owns Clementine, a home décor, stationery and baby store on Main Street, said consumers are spending money during the holidays anyway, so spending it in a community they love only makes sense.
“We want people to feel like this is what shopping in a vibrant downtown feels like,” she said.
In a store like hers — one where the shopkeepers get to know their customers because they see them regularly in the store or elsewhere in the community — retailers can offer purchasing recommendations that mean something.
“I didn’t realize when I opened the store, the interactions with the people would be one of my favorite things,” she said. “My best customers are people I get to know really well, and you sort of know what they like.
“I can guide their loved ones if they come into the store.”
The same is true for other businesses in Middlebury.
Barbara Harding at Otter Creek Used and Rare Books in the Marble Works, agrees that local merchants can offer the personal touch.
“I want to be the type of place people come in and hang out,” she said.
And, like every other business in town, she supports the local economy.
“I do pretty much everything locally,” Harding said. “Most of my books come from local people.”
The Small Business Saturday raffle is but one economic draw for customers that day. Many stores will also have other sales or deals that day, and in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Carla Berno at Middlebury Sew N Vac on Route 7 South said her business will also doing a few other promotions, such as one where customers who buy $100 in gift certificates that day and the day before will get an extra $10 gift certificate.
Then retailers will offer other promotions, Blistein pointed out, like Stag and Doe Night on Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 5 to 8 p.m. That’s when Middlebury stores will have special deals designed to draw husbands and wives to Middlebury businesses to shop for each other.
“There will be a lot of promotions that night,” she said
The local effort, headed up by the Better Middlebury Partnership, comes as the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development’s Downtown Program announces with partner American Express a statewide “Small Business Saturday.” The aim here is also to keep local money circulating locally.
It is also the beginning of the second annual “50/50 Challenge,” a season-long promotion that encourages Vermonters to support local communities by purchasing half their holiday gifts from local retailers, artisans and craftspeople.
Blistein urged people to think about not just what they spend their money on, but where they spend it, as well.
“(The raffle) really focuses people on the town and focuses the business as a part of a community,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”