Small Business Saturday shop small

Laveta Brigham

Robin Matthews is looking forward to the upcoming Small Business Saturday after a difficult year related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Matthews is the owner of A Bit of Carolina, a gift shop on Hay Street. The shop concentrates on gift baskets and gift boxes that can be customized as well as local art […]

Robin Matthews is looking forward to the upcoming Small Business Saturday after a difficult year related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Matthews is the owner of A Bit of Carolina, a gift shop on Hay Street. The shop concentrates on gift baskets and gift boxes that can be customized as well as local art and jewelry. 

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A Bit of Carolina had to adjust during the pandemic by learning how to use its online store and social media more and getting creative with curbside pickup and delivery, Matthews said. Support from its customers has been most important during this time. 

Robin Matthews, who owns A Bit of Carolina on Hay Street, said Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to connect with customers and say 'Thank you' for their support throughout the year.

“Small Business Saturday is a chance that we get to connect with our customers and say thank you for supporting us for the whole year. Especially during this year, we’ve had the best support, which has helped keep us alive,” Matthews said. “We also have realized that our customers are very faithful to us, and they’ve really helped us with anything that we might have been struggling with. They’ve supported us, they’ve cheered us on so we have a great support base.”

While some big-box retailers have flourished during the pandemic, it has been hard on small businesses like A Bit of Carolina, according to Bianca Shoneman, president and CEO of the Cool Spring Downtown District.

Katlin Neese, interim director of the Women’s Business Center of Fayetteville at the Center of Economic Empowerment and Development, said businesses downtown have plenty in store for this year’s Small Business Saturday.

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Seven businesses have closed between July 1 and Sept. 30, but it is not clear as to why. Shoneman said it would not be a fair assessment to say all of them closed as a result to the pandemic. In that same timeframe, six businesses opened, three are in pipeline to open and a few businesses expanded within the district. 

Neese couldn’t say if any businesses had closed in downtown Fayetteville but added that a handful of businesses have sprouted. 

“We’ve seen a great influx of people who want to start businesses, and I think it’s because they’ve had to get creative during this time,” Neese said. “And they finally have the time to build something. It’s been very fun to see.”

Diane Parfitt, owner of City Center Gallery and Books, said she hopes the community support for small businesses will continue this holiday season as it has in the past.

Diane Parfitt, owner of City Center Gallery and Books, which sells books and art by local and regional artists and authors, also faced hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With people not shopping in stores as much, Parfitt had to get creative.

“We do some online sales and we would do our drive-up — people would call us and order a book, and we meet them at the door or their car, whatever,” said Parfitt. “So we tried to adapt to the first phase of the shutdown because we were closed. We did have people here because there was work we could be doing, particularly with some online sales. Once we came back in and people could come back into the store, we’ve gone with all the CDC regulations, but it’s been a little slow.”

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This holiday season will be important to business owners new and old during the pandemic. 

“It’s just so important to support small businesses, especially women-owned, with COVID happening, with the pandemic happening. It’s been a very difficult year for small businesses,” Neese said.

Neese added that a lot of women have had to pivot balancing business and class now at home and have struggled to maintain both.

Parfitt hopes that the support will continue into the holiday season this year for small businesses as it has before. 

“I would love to see people continue to come downtown for their shopping as they’ve done in years past,” said Parfitt. “They can get items not just in my store but in other stores that you can’t get anyplace else. Because I feature all local artists, this is an opportunity to pick up a nice, affordable present for somebody that represents Fayetteville in our community.

“Also, because during COVID and times when we can’t go out as much, reading is one of the best things that you can do. People will continue getting books. And reading, it’s a wonderful way to pass the time and continue to grow and just understand life more.”

Shoneman said some businesses will offer hot cocoa to shoppers on Saturday. Matthews hasn’t solidified what her plans are just yet for Small Business Saturday. Parfitt said her shop will have musicians and hopes to have a Charles Dickens character do readings from “A Christmas Carol.” 

This holiday season serves as a way to give small business a little end of the year help. 

“It gives us a boost to finish off the year, make up on anything that we might have missed out on bill-wise and then it gives us a great start for next year,” said Matthews. “It rejuvenates us, too, … brings us back into the reason why we opened our business.”

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Staff writer Akira Kyles can be reached at [email protected]

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