The holiday shopping frenzy begins this week, and local business owners want you to remember Small Business Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
This day is about supporting locally owned businesses so more of your money stays in your community. It is about finding goods and services you never find in big-box stores. And it is about helping to keep your town unique and interesting, rather than letting it become just another generic link in the national retail chains.
One of Central Kentucky's biggest Small Business Saturday events Nov. 29 is being planned by the Chevy Chase Business Owners Association. While some of its activities will last all day, most will be between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Participating shops will have refreshments and a "candy-cane pull" for discount coupons at other neighborhood stores. The association also is working with American Express, which offers a special discount through its Small Business Saturday program. (More information: Americanexpress.com.)
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Chevy Chase merchants are organizing a coat drive for Lexington Rescue Mission and a store window-decorating contest in which customers can vote. Free carriage rides will be offered in front of John's New Classic Shoes on South Ashland Avenue.
"Santa will be making visits, and we're working on carolers," said Danielle Montague, an association leader and owner of MonTea, a specialty tea shop.
Chevy Chase was built between the 1920s and 1960s on land that had been part of statesman Henry Clay's Ashland estate. Developer Henry Clay Simpson named the area for the Maryland golf club, where he was a member. One of Lexington's first "suburban" shopping districts was built to serve the neighborhood.
"We were the original Hamburg," Montague said with a smile. "We have just about everything here, and it's walkable."
The Chevy Chase business district has had a tough year, with months of reconstruction on Euclid Avenue and controversy over a rowdy bar the city shut down in September. But there has been a lot of good news, too.
The business district has been gaining popularity, as a variety of stores, including The Morris Book Shop, Worlds Apart and Donut Days, came in from the suburbs to join longtime businesses such as Farmer's Jewelers and Chevy Chase Hardware. Several new stores have opened this year, including two in the past few weeks.
Ann-Michael Rawlings, who has operated Calypso Boutique in the Woodland Triangle for seven years, was at Morris buying a book this summer when she noticed the space beside Chevy Chase Hardware was for rent.
She quickly negotiated a lease, renovated it and opened her second boutique, High Street Fly, which specializes in local-themed T-shirts and vintage cowboy boots.
"I love the convenience of the neighborhood," Rawlings said. "With the hardware store next door, even a lot of guys come in."
Online retailer C.C. Prep Clothing & Accessories is owned by Atlantans, but when they chose Lexington as the location for their second store (after Charlottesville, Va.), they wanted to be in Chevy Chase.
"We didn't really look anywhere else," said manager Amanda Caldwell, who opened the store Nov. 14. "It's great to be in an area where they support small businesses."
Melissa Mautz has certainly found that to be true since opening the Pet Wants store in February. It sells fresh, regionally made dog and cat food, GMO-free chicken feed and American-made pet accessories.
"I knew I wanted to be in Chevy Chase, and business has been awesome," she said. "We like being a part of this community."
But like most retailers, Chevy Chase's business owners know that the holiday season can make or break their year. "We rely heavily on it," Montague said. "You can make your entire year's rent in a month."
Gary Doernberg, who opened Corner Wines five years ago in a tiny space that originally was a 1930s gas station, agrees. His shop specializes in low-priced wine lots from top vineyards, and this is high season for entertaining and gift-giving. But he has found Chevy Chase to be a great place to do business year-around.
"I've always loved this location," Doernberg said. "I've been in the wine business, wholesale or retail, for 40 years. This is not the most money I've ever made, but it's the most fun I've ever had."