Sports Card Heroes

Rick Currence is co-owner of Sports Card Heroes, and plans deep discounts during Black Friday sales, which extend through Small Business Saturday and Sunday. The shop has been at Seventh and Main streets for 21 years, but moved to a new location across the street in June. (Staff photo by Sarah Pastrana, Patuxent Publishing / November 20, 2012)

The Black Friday shopping weekend last year brought sales that surpassed expectations at Sports Card Heroes on Main Street.

With a new location across the street, owner Rick Currence is looking forward to the 2012 holiday season, hopeful sales will again surpass projections with new products translating into additional sales.

"But you never know," Currence said standing inside his store. "It's so hard to predict."

While Black Friday attracts shoppers to big box stores and the Mall in Columbia, Currence is extending his hours Friday and opening on Sunday, which is not typical for him.

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"It's possibly our biggest weekend of the year," he said.

Also aiding Currence for the weekend will be American Express' national initiative Small Business Saturday,which encourages holiday shoppers to shop at local small businesses instead of visiting their mall Nov. 24.

Laurel officials are promoting the event for the second year since American Express first started Small Business Saturday in 2010, and have even printed reusable shopping bags that promote shopping in Laurel.

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said it's hard to judge how successful the event has been in Laurel without speaking to every store owner.

"Our expectation is to remind people how important local, small business is to Laurel and to all business," Moe said.

But some local business owners like Rainbow Florist's Debbie Zook are not expecting a bump from the weekend event.

"It does nothing for me," she said. "It's a regular Saturday for me."

Downtown Laurel business stalled

January will mark 28 years in business for Zook and Rainbow Florist, but business has never been worse.

"I don't want to sound negative, but it's just very hard," she said.

The poor economy and competition through online florist sites have cut business to the point where Zook has seven employees, compared to 22 employees 13 years ago.

"The Internet has hurt local business; it's just a convenience to order online," she said.

Matthew Coates, chairman of the Laurel Board of Trade and owner of Photography by Madison on Main Street, said many businesses downtown are necessity stores that have been hurt by the economy.

"Right now I would say a lot of folks are having tough times," he said.

Coates is hopeful that the Laurel Mall revitalization will help small businesses by keeping people in the area to shop instead of traveling to Anne Arundel County or Columbia.

"I think you're going to see a thriving community will come back and people will stay here, shop here in Laurel. That's going to make a big difference," he said.