Dennis and Teresa Kathcart were on a mission when they arrived in Brookside on Saturday morning.
The couple had driven 60 miles from Warrensburg to go Christmas shopping at Brookside Toy & Science.
“This is marvelous,” said Teresa Kathcart, as she searched for a package of Wall Balls for her granddaughter and a friend. “We heard about some of the toys here and came especially for those. We called ahead and they even held some of the items for us. Being able to support these small businesses is wonderful.”
Judging from the looks of things, plenty of others shared their sentiments.
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Shoppers fanned out across the metropolitan area as merchants put out their welcome mats for Small Business Saturday in hopes of attracting buyers in the mood to plunk down some cash somewhere other than big box stores or in cyberspace. Saturday’s shoppers were treated to substantial discounts, refreshments, demonstrations, giveaways and free gift wrapping at some locations.
The nationwide campaign — held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving — was launched by American Express in 2010 in an effort to bring more holiday shopping to small businesses, many of which were hurting from the recession. Last year, small business owners generated an estimated $15.4 billion in sales on Small Business Saturday, according to American Express.
Jim Ward, owner of Brookside Toy & Science, said the business has been family-owned since 1964. He took it over in 1995.
“This is a huge day for us,” Ward said, as he opened a carton of Wall Balls and threw them at the wall to show how they would stick. “People who want to see small businesses survive really come and support us. Our business on this day will typically be double that on a typical Saturday.”
At the back of the store, Charlie Long of Overland Park shopped with his son and daughter-in-law, Brad and Monica Long, and their three sons, ages 1, 3 and 5. The family was visiting from Northern Ontario, and the boys were mesmerized by a variety of scientific objects, including skeletons and reptiles.
Charlie Long watched one grandson pluck a large orange bug off the shelf and another choose a green dinosaur.
“I love small businesses,” he said. “The personal touch is wonderful.”
Down the street, Casey Simmons welcomed shoppers to “a store named STUFF,” which she owns with her sister, S. Sloane Simmons.
“We’re a small business every day, so Small Business Saturday is just an opportunity for us to be at our best and to see a lot more people and to be part of the conversation about why small business is so incredibly important to the whole marketplace,” Casey Simmons said. “We really need that balance of all business working together, big and small. Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for us to kind of level the playing field.”
Tom Karczewski stood outside and soaked up the sunshine while his wife, Rosalie, shopped at “STUFF.”
“We think it’s very important to support the local small businesses,” said Karczewski, of Kansas City. He added, however, that he had one small suggestion for the owner.
“I told her she should open up a beer station inside for all of the husbands,” he said.