Kim Carpenter of Kansas City made a deal with her husband, Peter Noel: He would watch and play with their two children, and she could have some time by herself Saturday.
“I took some time to sneak out of the house and go shopping for them,” said Carpenter, who was browsing the shelves of Brookside Toy & Science at 330 W. 63rd St. for books, games and educational toys to use as stocking stuffers.
Carpenter specifically chose to shop in Brookside because it was Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving when consumers are encouraged to shop at small, locally owned businesses and shops.
“I think it is really important to support local businesses, especially here in Brookside, which is the lifeblood of the community here — these little shops,” she said.
Scores of small retailers across the metro area took part in Small Business Saturday. It was easy to spot them — in front were doormats that said, “Welcome to the Neighborhood. Shop Small.”
Carpenter specifically went to the toy store because of the unusual gifts and its customer service, including clerks who know her. The store’s staff helps find the perfect gift, and if you can’t find what you want in the store, they will special order for you.
“I feel they really care about me as a consumer and I’m not just, like, a nameless, faceless person coming in here and they just want my money,” she said. “It’s a win for me, and it’s a win for them because they are getting support and foot traffic that they normally wouldn’t have gotten.”
Brookside Toy & Science’s owner Jim Ward said he has participated in the Small Business Saturday movement ever since American Express started it in 2010, offering some special deals to help small businesses get more customers. And some businesses offered promotions too.
“It’s a huge day for us,” said Ward, who employs extra staff to help handle the added demand the day brings.
The movement is growing as shoppers learn about it — so much so that Ward has seen his business triple on Small Business Saturday since the first year.
Saturday’s weather, with above-normal highs, made shopping in areas like Brookside comfortable. The sidewalks in Brookside were swarming with shoppers, many with kids and pets in tow.
In Shawnee, Tami Janssen of Roeland Park shopped at The Doll Cradle with her mother, Carol Buczek.
Janssen, who is a regular customer at The Doll Cradle at 10910 Johnson Drive, said it’s important to support community businesses.
“That’s what keeps us going in the community,” she said. “Usually you can find more unique things in the small shops, and you get a lot more customer service and help in finding what you actually need.”
The Doll Cradle’s owner, Connie Harrell, said days like Saturday are important for small businesses.
“It’s hard for a small business to get out there and get people to know about us,” Harrell said. “We rely on our customer base, so we are always looking for new customers.”
Harrell said the shop usually attracts 50 to 100 extra people on Small Business Saturday compared to a typical Saturday.
“The main thing is to get people in the door, which this does that for us,” she said.