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Small Business Saturday: West Hawaii celebrates tribute to traditional consumerism

November 22, 2017 - 1:55pm

Correction: A previous version of this article wrongly stated that all small businesses are invited to set up a booth in the Keauhou Shopping Center’s parking lot for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25, when actually businesses must contact the center to ensure that they meet all the requirements for participation and that space remains available. At this point, it is too late to register for this year’s event. However, those who wish to register for next year’s celebration may contact the management office by calling 808-322-3000. It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to promptly correct any incorrect information as soon as it is brought to the attention of the paper.

KAILUA-KONA — Shop local.

That’s the message the Hawaii Small Business Development Center is circulating heading into Small Business Saturday — a lesser-known commercial driver that rounds out perhaps the busiest shopping weekend of the year, falling between the nationwide retail “holidays” of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The goal of Small Business Saturday (SBS), initiated by American Express in 2010, is to promote interest in local businesses that interweave to create the unique economic fabric of a community.

But Marty Kennedy, a business adviser at the Hawaii Small Business Development Center in Kailua-Kona, said generating participation in this tribute to a more traditional form of consumerism hasn’t been so easy as her organization attempts it for the first time throughout West Hawaii.

“I went around to local businesses on Alii Drive and didn’t get much excitement,” she said. “But for a lot of them, it’s the first time they’ve heard about it, so hopefully next year will be better.”

The concept of shopping local isn’t new. It’s been a part of advertising slogans and product pitches for years.

However, with the increasing digitization of retail and fewer and fewer companies capturing more and more of the market share, shopping local has become less of a pitch and more of a plea across the entire country.

Yet in Hawaii, small business still dominates the brick and mortar retail marketplace. Kennedy said around 85 percent of businesses in the state are sole proprietors.

Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Wendy Laros said of the chamber’s more than 500 members, 58 percent are classified as small businesses, meaning they have between 1-10 employees.

“It’s very important to support small businesses in the Kona and Kohala region because it helps to strengthen our local economy and promote the community in which we all live,” she said.

Judi Mellon, director of the Hawaii Small Business Development Center in East Hawaii, told the Hawaii Tribune Herald that buying from small businesses helps a community retain 3.5 times more money than shopping at a national chain.

Kennedy explained that East Hawaii, particularly Hilo, has had great success building interest in SBS over the last few years, as the development center there has set up contests with prizes for those who spend the most money in small business establishments, for instance.

SBS won’t go unrecognized on the leeward side this year, however. For the second year in a row, the Keauhou Shopping Center will host what is essentially a small business fair from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday.

All small businesses are invited to set up a booth in the center’s expansive parking lot for as long as suits their needs. There, they can introduce themselves to the community in whatever way they see fit. Participation is free and organizations already committed include The Girl Scouts, Kuleana Education, Hawaii Electric Light Co., AdvoCATS and The Kohala Center.

The County Band will play from 1-2 p.m., and the Green Machine will pick up where they leave off from 2:30-4:30 p.m. The Keauhou Farmers Market will be held in the same area from 8 a.m.-noon.

Just a few steps from the event, local bookstore Kona Stories will host its own celebration. Co-owner Joy Vogelgesang said Kona Stories has been a part of SBS for several years. The annual tribute to shopping local also happens to fall on the store’s 11th anniversary.

The combination birthday party will include complimentary sangria, pictures with the Grinch from 1-3 p.m., tote bag giveaways, free gift wrapping and door prizes all day. A cookbook author will also be on hand to offer samples of highlighted dishes.

“We want to help people connect the dots,” Vogelgesang said. “(They) are always coming in saying there’s no small bookstores. I want to tell them ‘If you shop here, there will continue to be a small book store.’”

Amy Sheffield, owner of Pueo Boutique, has been a part of SBS since opening her business eight years ago. At her Kailua-Kona locations this Saturday, a local baker will supply cupcakes and shoppers will be offered juice or mimosas, along with healthy discounts.

She said shopping at Pueo Boutique on Small Business Saturday helps local businesses on two levels.

“A lot of what we carry is from local designers here on the island,” Sheffield explained. “In that way, they’re not only supporting a local store, but supporting 50 local designers, as well.”

She added a little bit of incentive goes a long way with local consumers and encouraged other small businesses to get in on the action.

Vogelgesang echoed that sentiment, saying there’s more to SBS and the retail habits it’s promoting than just driving traffic.

“You’ll get more pleasure out of this than you will waiting in line at Walmart or shopping online,” she said. “If you want your community to have fun, interesting local stores, that’s where you need to be reminded to shop.”

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