ELYRIA — As the hype over Black Friday and holiday shopping grows yearly, the effects seem to be spilling over into many small businesses in Elyria.
On Saturday the nation turned the focus from the large chain stores back onto smaller local stores with the nationwide “Small Business Saturday” during which people were encouraged to shop and support local businesses. In Elyria, the day was sponsored by Invest Elyria and many businesses around the town donated to a raffle held at Rotuno’s BBQ on Saturday night.
The national tradition — established by American Express a few years ago — allowed many small-business owners in Elyria to reflect on the seemingly growing competition between larger stores and local businesses.
“We don’t have the ability to advertise like chain stores do,” Stewart’s Appliance president and co-owner Ed Stewart said. Stewart added that the competition between larger stores and small businesses was especially apparent yesterday following the new decision to open chain stores for Black Friday on Thursday.
“Stores being open on Thanksgiving has changed the complexion of how people shop,” Stewart said, adding that business was spread out over two days last week rather than just one, making smaller businesses that weren’t open on Thanksgiving struggle to keep up.
Carlisle Cafe owners Nicholas and Dawn Patouhas have only had their business open for a few months but they have also noticed the competition.
“We can’t battle the advertising that they have. They have money to push their philosophies,” Nicholas said, discussing the largest difference between his cafe and chain restaurants. “We have to compete for everything.”
However, being a restaurant, Nicholas said his business wasn’t affected by Black Friday like many retail stores were.
In terms of competing with larger stores, Bryan Branch, owner of Keith’s Comics in Elyria, said he avoids the problem.
“Competing is not generally an issue because we’re a specialty store,” Branch said, adding that he sticks to selling comics because he doesn’t want to contend with larger stores’ prices on items like figurines and action figures.
Despite the growing competition between large and small stores, there is something that small business owners in Elyria all recognize that Small Business Saturday celebrated — the personal connection between local stores and their customers.
“Chain stores are selling a box, not a service,” Stewart said, adding that his local business, which is family-owned and -operated, has a close connection with its customers. “We’re able to take care of our customers on a personal basis.”
Adam Schonhiutt, an employee at Shane Furniture, whose father Julius owns the store, agreed that connection is important for local businesses and said it’s reinforced each year by Small Business Saturday.
“We are a store for people in the area … (Small Business Saturday) helps people see what we have.”