If this past weekend’s crowds are a predictor of what stores can expect from shoppers when Black Friday rolls around, then the day after Thanksgiving (and beyond) may put lots of locally-owned businesses — businesses like Johnann Moore’s Book and Barrel Outfitters — in the black indeed.
“It’s been a fantastic day,” said Moore Saturday evening, just as the crowds began gathering in the Warehouse shopping district outside to watch the city’s annual Christmas parade. “We’ve had tons of people coming in all day long — and what’s great is that a lot of them are from out of town. It’s been great meeting and talking to people all day who didn’t even know any of this was here.”
The state is throwing its official weight behind the campaign to make sure that small businesses like Moore’s benefit from a higher profile to kick off the holiday shopping season this weekend. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has proclaimed Saturday, Nov. 30 as Small Business Saturday, a designation aimed at celebrating and boosting small businesses “and the impact they have on communities across the state,” the governor’s office said in a release.
For Judi Caples at A Touch of German, the appeal of coming across a unique gift in a locally-owned store seems to reach out to shoppers ready for a more personal experience — the kind that’s hard to duplicate at a big retail chain, or by navigating an ocean of online deals.
“Cullman is a destination stop for a lot of people I’ve talked to who have come from out of town,” she recently told The Times. “I’ve talked to people that have come anywhere from Florida to Michigan, California or Texas.”
In many cases, visitors who pass through Cullman are on their way to a vacation destination, or to a family gathering. Oftentimes, though, they’ll return, drawn by the ambiance of downtown Cullman.
“I think that people like shopping in an area where they can interact with local people,” Caples explained. “I think people come here because they like the atmosphere of Cullman — the way it feels; the variety of shops that they can walk to. I hear a lot of people talking about going back to things like that versus shopping at the mall. The fact that Cullman just has more of a personable atmosphere is very appealing to people.”
According to the governor’s office, small businesses make up 99.4 percent of all Alabama businesses, employing 48.1 percent of the state’s private workforce. But none of that is likely to be on the minds of Christmas shoppers who opt this weekend for a stroll through the city’s variety of locally-owned shops.
Just ask Bryan Messersmith at Margo’s Antiques. “Nothing really gives you that true holiday feel,” he said, “like going and window shopping and being able to pick out the presents.”
Mary Haynes contributed to this report.