Shoppers take advantage of expanded Small Business Saturday offerings in downtown Fredericksburg

Kim Vanderland got up at 7 a.m. specifically to drive from Beaverdam to shop in downtown Fredericksburg on Small Business Saturday.

She and her significant other, Eric Buller, and her seven-year-old granddaughter, Aaliyah Myrie, got there at 8:30 a.m. to take advantage of the special offers that ran until 11 a.m., and possibly use a receipt to get a discount on lunch that afternoon.

“We love shopping in downtown Fredericksburg,” said Vanderland as she waited for Buller to finish buying gifts for his twin grandchildren at Jabberwocky, 810 Caroline St. “We can hang out and have a good time. We come often, but today was to start the holiday off right.”

American Express designated the Saturday after Black Friday in 2010 as a day to rally communities to support their locally owned businesses. For many small businesses, the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a crucial period that could determine whether they are profitable for the year. They also provide a bump in sales tax revenue for their localities.

“I always tell people that for every $100 that’s spent downtown, 68 cents stays in the community,” said Scarlett Pons, co-owner of PONSHOP Studio and Gallery at 712 Caroline St. “You’re not just supporting local businesses, but the taxes go to support our local schools and fire department.”

Fredericksburg VA Main Street has been involved in organizing the event downtown since 2014, and it has grown each year. This year, more than 50 businesses—including retailers, restaurants and spas downtown—participated. That’s up from about 40 two years ago.

“Downtown has really embraced it, and we’re seeing the result,” said Mona Albertine, Jabberwocky’s co-owner, Saturday morning as shoppers filled her children’s bookstore to get the 20 percent Early Bird discount.

She said business at her store was good the first year Fredericksburg VA Main Street was involved, was better last year and even better this year. She said she thinks even more people than usual shopped there on Black Friday.

Small Business Saturday kicked off downtown with Early Bird Specials that ran from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m., which was an hour longer than in previous years.

“I think people appreciate that,” said Deb Foley, whose Taste Oil Vinegar Spice shop at 815 Caroline St. who was giving away a free bottle of balsamic vinegar with every purchase.

She said that last year people were coming in at 10 a.m. on Small Business Saturday and asking if they’d made it on time to get the shop’s gift with purchase offer for that day.

Participating businesses such as hers sported blue and white balloons and welcome mats, and the city’s Economic Development and Tourism office offered free coffee and pastries at the Visitor Center at 706 Caroline St. and Raven Hi Fi at 214 William St. until supplies ran out.

Harvey Gold, a travel counselor at the Visitor Center, said that people started coming in there at 8 a.m. to get flyers about all the special offerings and grab some coffee and a muffin. The goodies came from 25 30 Espresso, 400 Princess Anne St.

Besides the morning’s special deals, this year there were also “refuel specials” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and “dine specials” from 5 p.m. to closing at several downtown cafes, restaurants and other businesses. Some were offering a discount with proof of a downtown purchase or a discount or freebie with the purchase of a gift card.

In addition, some spas, a salons and several eateries offered special “enjoy and relax specials” from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg also had two stations to answer questions about its new 3D mammography, hold a drawing for a free screening and run a social media contest promoting Fredericksburg VA Main Street’s #lovefxbg that ends today.

“Main Street wants to show the diversity of business downtown,” said Brian Lam, whose Skin+Touch Therapy & Spa at 714 Caroline St. was offering a 10 percent discount on any service from 2 to 5 p.m. “Now they can shop and they can eat and they can get a massage. I think we’ll continue to do that and it will be a nice day’s event.”

Audrey Jennings, who lives in Fredericksburg, said that she decided to shop downtown for the first time on Small Business Saturday because her daughter was in town, and they were considering going to Orofino for lunch as well. The Italian restaurant at 1006 Caroline St. was offering free coffee and a dessert to customers who purchased at $50 gift certificate.

“We’ve just been wanting to try it,” she said.

Crystal Wellman, who owns Ladyburg Bath and Body Apothecary at 726 Caroline St., said that she’s noticed posts on her store’s Facebook page that indicate today’s shoppers are really excited about supporting small businesses, a trend she sees continuing long after Small Business Saturday.

“We have people who come year after year and bring friends,” she said. “We see those customers turn into online shoppers [at], and they’ll tell us, ‘We’re planning a trip to Fredericksburg and we have to come to Ladyburg.”

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