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Many small shops like Joseph's Department Store in Havre de Grace are stocked up and ready for small business Saturday in Havre de Grace.
Many small shops like Joseph's Department Store in Havre de Grace are stocked up and ready for small business Saturday in Havre de Grace. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Forget Black Friday, local merchants in Harford County are gearing up for Small Business Saturday, what many say is their biggest sales day of the year.

“By far,” said Alex Gordon, manager of Joseph’s Department Store in Havre de Grace. “There’s no comparison to any other day of the year, not just sales and traffic-wise, but we get more phone calls, see more faces in town we’ve never seen before.”

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Many of those same small businesses will also offer sales and deals on Black Friday, but are really looking forward to the day that’s come to be their best.

Stores in downtown Bel Air and Havre de Grace will be opening early and offering storewide sales throughout Saturday.

“It gives a big push to shop more in your small stores, boutiques, places around town you may not have noticed that have really great stuff in them,” Rebecca Clunie, the assistant manager at Charm City Run in Bel Air, said. “You need to visit the hole-in-the wall places, shop there, learn to appreciate them, because if you don’t, [consumers] will go to Amazon or somewhere else like that.”

Charm City Run will have shoes discounted, but Clunie said most sales will be focused on “fun little techy things” for runners, who likely already have their shoes. She suggested socks, accessories, water bottles, headphones, “fun little stocking stuffers for the runner in their lives.”

Mother and daughter Maureen Bruneau and Beth Pocalyko, owners of John’s Men’s Clothing, are excited for their first Small Business Saturday. They have always been local shoppers.

“I really think it’s super important to support local business because it’s the heart of your community. It brings so much life to the town and more business," Pocalyko said. “That’s what started us. We love shopping local, then we opened our shop and other new businesses have opened since we opened in April.”

This weekend, the first five customers at John’s on Friday and Saturday will receive 40% off one full price item. Merchandise in the entire store will be 20% off with two racks 40% off. And any purchase of Linksoul brand merchandise will get a free hat, while supplies last.

“We’re really excited to see everybody and meet new people,” Pocalyko said.

She likes how the Bel Air business community supports one another.

“All the stores together do a good job of sharing and making a whole day of shopping, not just their store,” she said.

Bruneau and her daughter are grateful for the support they’ve received in their first year in business.

“We need the support of each other. It takes a village,” Bruneau said. “We all have to come together and support each other to be successful. When one doesn’t make it, it’s disappointing.”

Jolene Forrester, owner JoRetro in Havre de Grace, said it’s important to shop local.

“If you don’t support your local business, then the downtown area really just dies. There’s so many unique small businesses that will only thrive if the local community supports them,” said Forrester, who has owned the vintage clothing and housewares shop since 2009.

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Small Business Saturday is a busy day at JoRetro, “one of our best days of the year.”

Those businesses also give back to downtown, local charities and events, she said.

“For most of us, we love Havre de Grace. It’s my hometown,” Forrester said. “A lot of us wouldn’t have a shop anywhere else, we just want to support the city that we love.”

At Joseph’s Department Store, everything in the store will be at least 20% off, in addition to other special sale items, Gordon said.

Sales on Small Business Saturday are at least triple, if not quadruple a normal good day at Joseph’s, he said.

“It’s a great thing. I love the idea, I love the concept,” Gordon said. “It drives people to want come out and support their local town.”

This weekend is also the “big reveal” of Joseph’s store windows, which have been decorated in various Christmas themes for the last few years.

They are covered up in the beginning of November and unveiled on Black Friday. This year’s theme is “Christmas Vacation” to coincide with the Mayor’s Pick of the holiday movie that will be shown at 7 p.m. Dec. 27 at the Cultural Center of Havre de Grace.

“It’s really fun and we love doing it,” Gordon said. “When you think Christmastime and retail, you think of the grand window displays Macy’s does in New York, old-fashioned, really nice Christmas windows. We’re throwing it back to the traditional ways they used to do it.”

The community gets excited about it, he said.

“People look forward to our windows every year,” Gordon said. “Hopefully more people will take a little pride and do their windows. That’s what brings people in — if there’s not a good window display, they’re not going to bring people in.”

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