McHenry County business owners prepare for Small Business Saturday

Retailers in McHenry County are gearing up for Small Business Saturday, a typically busy start to the holiday shopping season.

American Express launched the idea of Small Business Saturday – the day after Black Friday – in 2010 in an effort to draw shoppers into small local businesses around the U.S. A year later, the initiative was recognized by the U.S. Senate when officials passed a resolution in support of the day, according to American Express.

McHenry County chambers of commerce make efforts every year to promote the importance of shopping locally, and Small Business Saturday is no different, said Kay Bates, president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce.

“What works to get people into stores is to create a destination shop,” Bates said. “You have to get them in to try it one time. That is why it’s important to set aside a special day. We always encourage people to shop local, but the focus on a particular day keeps it in people’s minds.”

About 71 million people in the U.S. are expected to shop on Small Business Saturday, with 76 percent of those shopping specifically to support the day, according to the National Retail Federation. About 56 percent of Americans already have started holiday shopping, but only 2 percent have finished, according to the federation.

Lori McConville, co-owner of Marvin’s Toy Store in downtown Crystal Lake, said that she sees many shoppers from not only Crystal Lake but also around the county come into her store on Small Business Saturday.

“It’s one of the biggest shopping days of year, if not the biggest,” she said. “It has definitely gotten more popular.”

McConville said that downtown Crystal Lake has become a destination shopping spot during the holidays for many because of the variety of stores, lighting, decorations and atmosphere of the area.

“Our local community is our foundation,” she said. “But we ripple out into other communities as well. … There is a lot of enticement to come to downtown Crystal Lake.”

Customers and retailers both can use the day to take pride in the local business community, McConville said.

“It adds to the festivities and brings people together,” she said. “It’s a piece of what people come to expect as a celebration of community. Customers are willing to express appreciation, and it gives us a chance to say thank you in return.”

Carol Chrisman, owner of Black Orchid Boutique in McHenry, said she also has seen increased support.

“When I opened [six years ago], it wasn’t the best of times,” she said. “I have noticed people like to shop online, but there now has been a trend of shopping local. People like personalized customer service and to touch and feel products. Sometimes when you buy online, you don’t know what you are going to get.”

Shoppers from around McHenry County patronize Black Orchid, which is good for the community, Chrisman said.

“People don’t realize how much it helps the community to shop small and local, and that is something we need to educate residents on,” Chrisman said. “I also supply a lot of made-in -the-USA products, which I think is something that was lost but is coming back.”

Some business owners, including Claudia Kendzior of Morkes Chocolates in Huntley, are preparing for the uptick in business by making sure their workforce and retail stock are ready to meet holiday demands.

“Pretty much all of our part-time staff become full time, and we have a nice steady stream of customers,” she said. “We are open 14 hours a day, so I think that is a nice convenience.”

Kendzior said Small Business Saturday is a kickoff to the busy season, which goes through the new year into Valentine’s Day.

“We are a great place to relax after shopping all day,” she said. “We also make gift baskets [and] provide chocolate for fondues or family parties. We have more of an online presence, which also helps a lot.”

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