Downtown Middletown celebrating ‘Small Business Season’ by pairing with holiday events

Numerous downtown Middletown businesses are participating in Small Business Season that starts today, according to Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

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Numerous downtown Middletown businesses are participating in Small Business Season that starts today, according to Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Numerous downtown Middletown businesses are offering specials on Saturday as the city turns Small Business Saturday into Small Business Season, said Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc.

He said the goal is to attract some of those who visit Light Up Middletown, a drive-through holiday lights display at Smith Park, and Holiday Whopla, a 50-day festive event, to downtown and patronize the diverse businesses.

ExploreTrifecta of holiday events turn Middletown into ‘a Christmas city, a Christmas town’

Payne said those who own small businesses are testaments to “the true American experience.”

Small Business Saturday last year brought $19.8 billion in sales in the U.S. — up from $19.6 billion in 2019 — to independent retailers and restaurants, according to American Express, which founded the event in 2010. Fifty-six percent of those shoppers made a purchase online, an increase from 43% in 2019.

About 92% of independent shops participating in Small Business Saturday “say it helps their business stand out during the busy holiday shopping season,” said Roger Geiger, Ohio executive director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Smaller retailers boosted their online presence during the pandemic as consumers turned to shopping from home, said Meghan Keivel Cruz, director of grassroots for the National Retail Federation.

“Smaller retailers are hopeful that the consumer will turn to small businesses to find that really unique personal gift that you can’t find scrolling on those large retailer sites,” she said.

Payne said Small Business Saturday is critical because money spent in those businesses typically stays in the area.

“The dollars are recaptured in the local community,” he said. “This is the way to honor those businesses.”

Sue Wittman, director of Art Central Foundation and owner of Artique in the Pendleton Art Center, said she’s “a good fan” of shopping locally.

“That’s how they survive,” she said of small businesses. “These are the people who live in town, care about the town, spend money in town. It’s better for everyone.”

Ohio’s Department of Development is also encouraging Ohioans to buy local.

“For many families, including mine, holiday shopping is an annual tradition that usually includes eating at a favorite restaurant, catching some holiday lights and buying sweet treats,” said Lydia Mihalik, the department director. “We encourage Ohioans to get out and take advantage of all the wonderful stores, restaurants and other great destinations that we’re lucky to have here in Ohio.”

Wittman said she can’t believe how the number of downtown businesses has grown over the years. There was a time, she said, when there was “a handful” of businesses. Now businesses line Central Avenue.

“We never imagined it would turn into this,” Wittman said.

Art Central Foundation, 1108 Central Ave., is offering gently used and new frames, original art and prints at a reduced price, she said.


Small Business Saturday by the numbers

58.1 million: People plan to shop on Small Business Saturday

$19.8 billion: Amount spent at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday 2020

$68 of every $100: Spent at local businesses stays in local economy

24%: Of U.S. consumers plan to shop specifically at a local or small business

SOURCES: National Federation of Independent Businesses-Ohio, National Retail Federation and American Express

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