There are new ways to help local businesses and artisans struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic this holiday shopping season.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association is encouraging people to shop at local businesses that continually give back to their communities by supporting youth sports and school programs, food banks and employ one out every four North Carolina residents.
“For our independent retail store owners in small-town North Carolina, the holiday shopping season is an important time, this year especially,” Andy Ellen, president and general counsel of NCRMA, said in a statement. “There are many stores that were closed for weeks and are struggling to recover from the shutdown and they are anxiously awaiting customers to return to shop.”
This year, Small Business Saturday events are planned throughout Charlotte with some being one-day, while others are extending the shopping days because of the coronavirus pandemic.
For instance, Petty Thieves Brewing Co. and well-run media marketing company are hosting “Too Small to Fail” Small Business Saturday pop-up market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the brewery, 413 Dalton Ave.
There will be dozens of local vendors at this outdoor, socially-distanced event limited to 50 guests at a time. Vendors will be selling items like pottery, art, textiles and vintage comics, said Melissa Brokaw, creative director for well-run media. For many of the vendors, it will be their first market, she said.
“And (while) you might not be able to see your family and friends in person for the holidays, it’s really nice to be able to send them a nice personalized gift that’s not something generic they could have gotten anywhere,” Brokaw said.
More than one day
Other retailers are extending the one-day Saturday event that falls after the traditional seasonal shopping launch, Black Friday.
University City Partners is holding an outdoor nighttime marketplace, University City Night Market at the lake and boardwalk at Shoppes at University Place.
The market will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 28 and every Saturday through Dec. 19, and include shopping, holiday beverages and live music.
“If there is ever a time to shop small, it is now,” said Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners, in a statement to the Observer. “University City Night Market creates an opportunity for us to back local restaurants and small retail vendors, as well as activate a safe social space.”
At University City Night Market, shoppers will find handmade crafts, jewelry, art and clothing.
Capacity will be limited for shoppers to increase social distancing, according to University City Partners. Guests are encouraged to access the market by riding the LYNX Light Rail, walking or biking on the Barton Creek Greenway, or parking at Shoppes at University Place, 8929 JM Keynes Drive.
Another event is planned south of uptown. Shop Local at South End Small Business Saturdays includes retailers, restaurants and galleries in a four-week pop-up market.
“We encourage everyone to support small businesses this holiday season because big things happen when you shop small,” organizer Charlotte Center City Partners said in a statement to the Observer.
The pop-up markets will held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 28 and Dec. 12 at Atherton Plaza on South Boulevard, and Dec. 4 and Dec. 19 at Design Center of the Carolinas on Camden Road.
“The local shops and restaurants in South End are what make this place interesting,” said Megan Liddle Gude, vice president of South End at Charlotte Center City Partners. “Shopping small for the holidays has never been more important for our city’s about supporting each other.”
Shoppers can pick up a Small Biz Hero Card to win prizes. After spending at least $10 at five participating small businesses, shoppers will earn South End swag like a tote bag or T-shirt designed by local print studio Three Little Birds and printed by MacFly Fresh.
South End has nearly 100 retail options and more than 100 restaurants and places to grab a drink.
Casey Jo, general manager of Savory Spice at Atherton Mill in South End, said that although the store had to layoff employees during the shutdown, it was able to continue shipping online orders because more people were cooking at home.
“It comes down to keeping your brick-and-mortars open,” Jo said of shopping locally. “It’s where you get that personal connection.”
Savory Spice requires employees and workers to wear masks and offers curbside pickup.
Helping small businesses
Mooresville-based Lowe’s Home Improvement also is highlighting shopping small by featuring its local partners during Small Business Saturday.
In the Charlotte area, Lowe’s supported 119 small businesses with more than $2.3 million in grants in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corp.
Lowe’s is also touting the stories of small business owners and pros these emergency funds have helped, like Charlotte-based Derik Harris, owner of Second Look Construction, said company spokeswoman Sarah Lively.
More than 2,000 businesses nationwide received funding since the summer when the $55 million in grant funds were first announced. The next round of funding applications launches Nov. 30 and closes Dec. 6.