Entrepreneurs hope events help lure shoppers for Small Business Saturday

On this Small Business Saturday, listen to live music or check out holiday lights while you shop.

Garba Diop's Afro Fashion and Art shop in Pigtown is almost three years old. But as he readies for Saturday shoppers, he isn't taking down the Grand Opening banner in the front window.

"People are going to say, 'Wow, what's happening here?'" Diop said. "They stop in to see what's going on."

The owners of family businesses in small shopping districts around the region were readying Friday for what they hope will be a brisk day of sales on Small Business Saturday, which has become an annual rite to counter the mega-sales at big-box retailers on Black Friday.

Events are scheduled in shopping districts from Pigtown to Westminster to lure people who are looking to spend their money at locally owned establishments.

In Pigtown, Baltimore Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh, state Comptroller Peter Franchot and city and state lawmakers plan to tour businesses and pop-up shops along Washington Boulevard, with live music and holiday food and drinks welcoming shoppers.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians will provide a festive soundtrack for Ellicott City shoppers eager to support businesses that have rebuilt from a devastating flash flood that hit the town's Main Street in July.

At the weekly Waverly Farmers' Market, dozens of local artisans are joining for a pop-up holiday market.

And in Carroll County, merchants have banded together with a promotion that could give shoppers $100 extra to spend at local stores. Starting Saturday and over the next week, anyone who buys something from eight of the 90 participating shops throughout the county can enter a drawing for one of 10 gift certificates.

"We wanted to do something to engage people in a bigger way to come and shop small," said Missie Wilcox, marketing consultant for the city of Westminster. "This is the time to really see how wonderful Carroll County downtowns are. We hope the [promotion] will motivate people to go to multiple towns."

The National Federation of Independent Business and American Express coined Small Business Saturday in 2010. According to a survey they conducted last year, 95 million people participated in 2015, spending more than $16 billion. It was an increase of 14 percent from the previous year.

In Hampden, known to shun national chains in favor of local businesses, the annual lighting of extravagantly decorated homes in the 700 block of W. 34th St. is expected to bring in shoppers in large numbers. The "Miracle on 34th Street" is scheduled to start glowing at 6 p.m.

"The lighting of 34th Street really kicks off the holidays for a lot of people," said Leslie Stevenson, owner of In Watermelon Sugar at 36th Street and Chestnut Avenue. A sign outside the store at the well-trafficked corner indicated that all of the lotions, lamps and other wares inside were 10 percent off.

Business was busy there Friday, and Stevenson said she expects a rush of people before and after the lightning Saturday. The two-day period is one of the busiest of the year, she said.

Across the street at Bazaar, a self-described "morbid" gift shop, owner Brian Henry said it was another busy Black Friday. He said the 34th Street lighting typically brings out a lot of window shoppers, but that doesn't necessarily translate to sales.

Bob Hosier, a 34th Street resident whose house at the western edge of the block is arguably decorated the most brightly, said he hopes visitors to the display spend their money in the neighborhood, too.

"We certainly help small businesses," he said.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Michel Elben contributed to this article.

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