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Bel Air, Aberdeen, Havre de Grace ready for Small Business Saturday

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Harford County holiday shoppers may have flooded local retailers Thanksgiving evening and Friday morning for traditional Black Friday sales, but there will be plenty of great pre-Christmas deals to choose from in the shops along the main downtown streets of Bel Air, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace during Small Business Saturday.

"Think about what you have locally, in your community, that you can patronize before you hit those big stores," says Brigitte Peters, tourism and marketing manager for the City of Havre de Grace.

Many downtown business owners in Harford County are offering great deals to attract shoppers the day after Black Friday and beyond.

Small Business Saturday was established by American Express in 2010 to encourage holiday shoppers to visit small businesses.

Tianna VanSpriell, owner of the Barely Used Consignments on Main Street in Bel Air, said she has heard from shoppers that they are skipping the Black Friday crowds and spending Small Business Saturday at their local businesses.

"We want to hear that," VanSpriell, who is also president of the board for the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, said. "We want to hear the people are shopping the main streets all over Maryland and not just here."

Corinne Stiltner, store manager for K&B Bridals in downtown Bel Air, said she has "back-to-back-to-back" appointments scheduled for Saturday.

"I just think that it's a great way to get people into town and shop locally," she said of Small Business Saturday during a fitting for a wedding dress Wednesday.

Shoppers who visit the bridal store can get 10 percent off all purchases made Saturday, but it cannot be combined with other offers, Stiltner said.

VanSpriell her shop has "been slammed" on prior Small Business Saturdays.

She will be offering discounts such as a $10 gift certificate for someone who spends $50 or more; anyone who leaves a donation for the Fallston Animal Rescue Movement is eligible for a 10 percent discount and will be entered into a drawing for a gift basket.

Downtown Bel Air will also be the scene of the Festival of Trees Saturday and Sunday, and the town's annual Christmas parade and tree lighting Sunday.

In Havre de Grace, Paul and Liz Howshall own and operate The Arts Rooms Professional Arts Supplies at 116 N. Washington St.

Paul Howshall said Tuesday visitors can enjoy "more bang for your buck holiday sales" of art supplies, such as purchasing two tubes of a certain type of paint and getting the third one free.

People can also purchase art gift sets for the holidays, for beginning and experienced artists.

Art classes, which are another staple of the business, which has been downtown for six years, will be offered Saturday, as usual.

"People can come in to see what art is all about ... Look around and we'll explain things to them and maybe they'll get interested," Howshall said.

He said shoppers can even visit the store dog, Shelby, a beagle mix the Howshalls adopted from the Cecil County Humane Society.

Howshall said visitors can expect to see Shelby running toward them "demanding that she get scratched and petted."

Shoppers can also check out the art gallery in The Art Rooms, where pieces are for sale.

Howshall described Small Business Saturday as "a great benefit, anything to draw people to town."

He noted The Art Rooms is a "destination" for many customers, with fewer walk-in customers.

He said some of those who do drop in are not artists, but they will tell friends who are artists about the store.

"A couple of days later you see that friend in here buying art supplies, so it helps," he explained.

In downtown Aberdeen, Jim Weber runs Flowers by Lucy, which has been downtown for 25 years.

Weber operates his Aberdeen store at 20 W. Bel Air Ave., and an Abingdon store at 3101 Emmorton Road.

Shoppers can purchase containers and artificial flower arrangements for 25 percent off.

Weber noted Flowers by Lucy is one of a handful of stores that remain in downtown Aberdeen, where banks and churches outnumber the small businesses.

Weber said a great deal of Aberdeen business has moved to locations such as Beards Hill Road over the years.

"We have a great landlady, and the location is great for us," he said when asked why he remained downtown.

"We love it here," he continued. "It does give you the small-town feel."

Weber said downtown Aberdeen is walkable, and is a draw during the city's annual Christmas parade, and for the "beautiful" trees and planters put out by the city.

"It's small-town USA," he said. "It could be busier but we do like it here."

"We need to support small businesses because they're basically the foundation of our communities, and the more successful they are the more successful your community is," Nancy Merritt, director of the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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