It’s going to be a different holiday shopping experience this year.
With big-box stores offering curbside pickup on Black Friday and large online retailers selling some of 2020’s hot items — face masks, paper towels, latex gloves — on Cyber Monday, local businesses are just hoping Centre County residents don’t forget about Small Business Saturday. Or, more importantly, that they don’t forget about them this holiday season.
“Supporting the county’s local businesses has never been more important than it is right now,” said Fritz Smith, president and CEO of the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. “The pandemic is threatening the livelihood of many of our small businesses and restaurants.”
According to HVAB, the estimated economic hit to Centre County businesses — including hotels, restaurants and tourism attractions — has been $131 million between April and September. Some businesses have closed, some have cut back on their hours.
But most have adapted. And for small businesses in Bellefonte, Philipsburg, State College and the rest of Centre County, most have tried to meet their customers where they are — like Growing Tree Toys (202 S. Allen St., State College) offering delivery and Smith + Front (5 N. Front St., Philipsburg) carving out private shopping time for high-risk customers.
“I think it’s important for people to remember these aren’t just businesses in their community, it’s their friends and neighbors who are the owners and who work there,” said Ellen Matis, president of Downtown Bellefonte Inc. “So anything we can do to support them, especially this holiday season, is super important.”
Here’s a closer look at local businesses this holiday season and what they’re offering:
With the worsening pandemic, downtown shops and stores are trying to make it as easy as possible for customers to feel safe.
So, after working with the borough, the Downtown State College Improvement District announced there are now 17 different areas — outlined by an online map and with custom “Pick-up/Drop-off Zone” signs — where customers can stop for contactless delivery.
“If you’re not comfortable going into the store, you can order, pull in, call the store, and they’ll come out to the designated location and do a contactless delivery to your car,” said Rob Schmidt, executive director of the improvement district. “A lot of our stores have been doing that all along, but we’re going to focus on that with the holiday season.”
On-street parking remains free, and parking in the garages became free Wednesday.
A number of downtown businesses also plan to host different sales and events for Small Business Saturday, which American Express started in 2010 and the U.S. Senate officially recognized in 2011. Among them:
- Connections Clothing (130 S. Allen St.): Get 15% off all sale items. Additionally, for every $25 spent, each customer will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win a gift card.
- Ethereal Boutique (216 E. College Ave.): There will be a Discount Raffle between noon and 6 p.m.
- Evolve Studio (326 W. Beaver Ave.): Visit between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and all full-size retail purchases will receive a free Oribe hand lotion. All clients that come in for color service will also receive a complimentary deep conditioning masque, and all clients Saturday are eligible to enter a raffle.
- Kitchen Kaboodle (104 W. Beaver Ave.): Spend $25 in gadgets and receive a free Grease Hero. Spend $40 on Tea Forte and receive a pair of ceramic tea trays. Or spend $50 on Nora Fleming and receive a Nora Pink Bird Dish.
- Lions Pride (112 E. College Ave.): Get a free T-shirt with a $100 purchase.
- The Makery (209 W. Calder Way): Stop by between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to receive 10% off, in addition to a special bonus gift.
- The Nittany Quill (111 S. Fraser St.): Stop by after noon for some appetizers and beverages — to go along with some browsing.
- Sweet Tooth Bakery (120 Miller Alley): Get a free hot chocolate and cookie from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring the kids, and pick out a balloon animal from noon to 2 p.m. at Nittany Balloons.
“Our focus is to support local every day, and this year it’s more important than ever to remind people that where you do shop does matter and that, with locally owned businesses, the money stays local,” Schmidt said.
Shoppers can thank Hollidaysburg for helping Bellefonte businesses add to the holiday spirit this year.
Inspired by a similar event held by the town 60 miles to its southwest, the Victorian-style borough will hold a “Shop Small Crawl” that starts Friday and runs through Dec. 18. Essentially, you purchase a $5 Bellefonte tote bag — at Belle Mercantile, Bonfatto’s, Confer’s Jewelers, Axemann Brewery or Bellefonte Springboard — and then collect different pins from the more than two dozen participating merchants. (You either get one for free with a purchase, or you can simply buy one for $1.)
If you collect 15, email [email protected] with a photo, and you’ll be entered into a drawing with a grand prize of more than $600 in gift cards from various Bellefonte shops. (Post a photo of the tote on social media with the #LoveBFT tag for an additional entry.)
“Across our community in Bellefonte, businesses are really using the entire weekend to promote shopping local and promoting a safe atmosphere to get some holiday shopping done while being safe,” Matis said.
A number of businesses will also offer different specials and events Saturday, including:
- Alleycat Quiltworks (107 E. High St.): Snacks will be on-hand.
- Axemann Brewery (2042 Aexmann Road): 25% off all glassware in the Gear Shop.
- Bees Knees Coffee (TBD): Baked goods, hot coffee and espresso will be available.
- Bellefonte Art Museum (133 N. Allegheny St.): Visitors — no purchase necessary — can enter a raffle for two handmade quilts by local quilter Doug Marme.
- The Cakery (105 N. Potter St.): New products and flavors will be launched.
- Confer’s Jewelers (100 N. Allegheny St.): There will be a special gift for coming to the store, and there will be specials on Pandora products.
- Good Intent Cider (167 S. Potter St.): Open for bottle pickup.
- Jabebo Studio Store (213 E. Bishop St.): Buy two pairs of Jabebo earrings and get a third pair free. 10% off everything in the store.
- Lock Boutique (136 W. High St.): Exclusive “Support Your Local Girl Gang” sweatshirts and masks made by a local veteran, with all proceeds donated to the local food bank.
- Our Fair Lady Bed and Breakfast (313 E. Linn St.): Mention this Small Business Saturday promotion, and stay one night in January and get the second night 50% off.
- T&T Events Bar (High Street, by the bridge): Will be selling hot cocoa, hot cider and baked goods by the DBI tent on High Street, across from Talleyrand Park.
- Twisted Scissor Dezigns (126 S. Allegheny St.): 20% off all retail products, and get $20 free in gift cards for every $100 in gift card purchases.
- Victorian House Antiques (121 S. Allegheny St.): 15% off storewide; gold and silver items 5% off.
Although the local business group, Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation, doesn’t have anything specific planned this year, a handful of individual businesses still intend to take part in Small Business Saturday.
Staci Egan — owner of Smith+Front, which specializes in local and handmade items from jewelry to home decor — is making an entire weekend out of it.
On Friday, she’s handing out free airplants with $25 purchases and free hammered sterling stacking rings with $50 purchases. Saturday will feature an on-hand Clancy& Skin Food, who will create custom lip scrubs made to order, from 10 a.m. to noon and 3-5 p.m. And, on Sunday, Egan will remain open only for individuals who want to make private shopping appointments during the pandemic.
“I know it’s a hard time for people,” Egan said. “But there’s no shortage of great places and causes to support.”
Other local businesses taking part include:
- Conklin’s Corner Antique & Gift Barn (670 Tyrone Pike): BBQ By Clem will be available for purchase Friday through Sunday.
- Diva’s Bling (128 N. Front St.): 20% off all items including women’s clothing, medical scrubs and accessories.
- Katey’s Corner (124 E. Presqueisle St.): 10% off all sports, Ty Beanie Boos and pet gifts.
- The Painting Broad (211 N. Front St.): 20% off all Star Wars and Marvel licensed pottery, $3 studio fees all day and free coffee.
- Ricotta Jewelry (105 N. Front St.): 10% off the bracelets and clasps from the new line of Convertible Bracelets, from Friday through Monday.
- We Are Inn (1535 Port Matilda Highway): Flash TV sale: Buy dinner and get a 42-inch Roku smart flat screen TV for $100. While supplies last.
Customers are encouraged to visit the websites and Facebook pages of their favorite Philipsburg shops for more specials and events.
Elsewhere and around the county
Not every town or borough has its own curbside setup like State College, but business owners around the county emphasized that most would be more than happy to accommodate customers seeking those services.
More than four dozen businesses, from Centre Hall to Pine Grove Mills, have already signed on for no-contact holiday shopping. But, for most businesses, all it takes is a quick phone call.
“One of the most amazing things about our little town is our business owners will go above and beyond for almost anyone who calls,” Matis said, referring to Bellefonte. “So if someone is concerned about going into a shop or just doesn’t want to shop physically in person … I’m sure they would be happy to arrange curbside pickup.”
Officials emphasized the importance of gift cards and, for those who live outside the community and still want to offer support, they all agreed that was the best way to do it.
Downtown State College even offers its own gift cards that can be used at dozens of different merchants, although Schmidt acknowledged it’s best to buy a merchant’s gift card if you know that’s where you’ll be spending it. (Direct gift cards like that offer immediate support to the specific business.)
“We love when someone buys a $5 or $10 gift card; it’s just as important as a $100 gift card,” Schmidt added. “Because it brings someone into the store.”
Those who live far from Centre County, or are just trying to avoid shopping in-person, will have another option Dec. 5 when HVAB airs a live Facebook broadcast from 4-10 p.m. “to showcase the county’s small businesses and the products they have for sale.”
Viewers will be able to shop in real time for the event, dubbed “Helping Happy Valley LIVE.”
Bellefonte’s Hello Social Co. will execute the online event, while two hosts from B94.5 Live will serve as the emcees. A digital 2020 Happy Valley Holiday Wish Book can also be found online, as can more information on the one-time event, at helpinghappyvalley.com.
But, however shoppers choose to buy gifts and knickknacks this year, local business owners and just hoping they’ll forget about the likes of Walmart and Amazon — two behemoths that have seen profits soar during the pandemic — and remember the shops that remain an important part of the community.
“One of my favorite signs is from a local small business owner, and it says, every time you buy from a small business owner, they do a happy dance,” Matis said with a laugh. “And I think that’s so true because a $15 gift card doesn’t make a huge difference to a box store — but, to a small business owner, it can be the difference between sending their kid to dance class that week.”
Added Schmidt: “It’s a very important holiday season.”