Andersonville’s shopping district draws crowds on Small Business Saturday

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Shoppers spent Friday checking out the hottest Black Friday deals, but Chicago’s holiday shoppers were out in full force for the 13th annual Small Business Saturday, clearly not done until Saturday.

Crowds lined the narrow sidewalks on North Clark Street in Andersonville, one of Chicago’s strongest neighborhoods for small business shopping. Space was even more limited in most small shops and boutiques—many of which were enjoying their first holiday season due to the influx of recently opened neighborhood stores.

“I knew this would be a good place for a small business because I was a shopper here before I was a business owner,” said Emma Lewis, who opened Rare Form, an art-deco concept store, three months ago.

Around noon, Lewis said business Saturday has been “crazy” so far with a steady flow of shoppers around the store.

Between Black Friday, a huge day for brick-and-mortar stores, and Cyber ​​Monday, Small Business Saturday was created by American Express to offset the economic impact of the national recession on independent consumer stores and encourage people to shop at small businesses. There are 33.2 million small businesses in the country, which make up 99% of businesses nationwide. American Chamber of Commerce.

Small business owners are expecting big consumer spending, with an estimated 182 million people expected to shop in stores and online over the long weekend, from Thanksgiving to Cyber ​​Monday. The total would be the highest number of consumers estimated since the National Retail Federation began tracking the data in 2017.

At Paper & Pencil, a stationary store near Clark and West Berwyn avenues, about a dozen shoppers filled the 400-square-foot store, while other shoppers waited outside until more space opened.

“I think it was one of the best days we’ve had since we opened,” said Tyler McCall, who co-owns the store with his husband, Eric Campbell.

McCall and Campbell opened the store in May, choosing to prioritize a flagship location over a larger location. The co-owners said weekend sales were highest on weekends in November, matching trends for the long holiday shopping season nationwide, and new customers were constantly pouring in the door.

Paper and Pencil didn’t offer any special sales for the weekend, in part because its owners believe they can’t compete with prices at larger stores like Target or Amazon, McCall said. But as the only stationary store in the Far North, McCall said people often flock there, prepared and willing to spend a little more to shop locally and in person.

“You want to try a pen or a pencil, you want to feel the paper before you buy it. So you can do all that in the store,” McCall said. We had someone buy one of the brands we carry and she said, ‘I’m so glad I got this here, and I don’t have to go on Amazon.’

Elizabeth Martinez, 20, emerges from the stationary store with a small brown bag as a holiday gift for her mother, who likes to shop on Clark Street. Martinez said the stores are incredibly busy and crowded.

“But it’s good to be busy,” she said.

The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce brought it back Buy a local passport campaign, Allowing customers to enter giveaways if they shop at Andersonville small businesses from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31, to encourage more local purchases. The council gave free backpacks filled with Understudy Books and coffee to the first 25 people to start the day.

The bag giveaway made for a busy but fun morning for owner-manager Danny Fender, who was celebrating the cafe and bookstore’s 9-month anniversary with Small Business Saturday.

In other ways, Fender says the local marketplace isn’t much different than a regular Saturday. The shop was bustling with some customers browsing the books and others making coffee. Amidst the chaos was an intense chess match that drew the audience.

“Our Saturdays are typically busy and we had a wild rush this morning, but other than that it feels like a normal Saturday here and it’s great that so many people support small businesses here in Andersonville,” Fender said.

At Rare Form, regular customers create a healthy sales segment, and first-time visitors say they plan to come back again and again.

“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘I do all my holiday shopping here,'” Lewis says. That’s great to hear as a small business,” Lewis said.

AGuffey@chicagotribune.com



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