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Saturday, August 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Small Business Saturday draws focus on hand-crafted items, Spokane-area merchants

The Pop Up Shop’s motto is “100 percent local, 100 percent of the time.”

From natural stone pendants to do-it-yourself cocktail kits and pottery mugs, each item in the Steam Plant Square store is handcrafted by a local artist.

Shopping there “helps people make a living in the creative arts in Spokane,” said Kelly Baker, manager of the Pop Up Shop.

Since its April opening, the Pop Up Shop has rung up $32,000 in sales for local artists. The shop is an outreach of the nonprofit arts group, Terrain, which helps emerging artists reach financial goals. With Christmas on the way, Baker has high hopes for the store’s first holiday retail season.

U.S. consumers will spend billions of dollars on Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa gifts this year. When some of that money trickles into small retail establishments, it has an outsized effect on the local economy, business leaders say.

“The impact is substantially larger than shopping at chain stores, and exponentially larger than shopping online,” said Juliet Sinisterra, the Downtown Spokane Partnership’s economic development manager.

Nearly 50 percent of the dollars spent at local, independent retailers recirculates in the community, compared to 14 percent of the dollars spent at chain stores, according to the American Independent Business Alliance.

In both Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, downtown associations are promoting “Small Business Saturday” this weekend to encourage people to check out local retailers.

Tiffany Mulgrew owns three women’s clothing stores – &Kloth in downtown Spokane and Fringe Boutiques in the South Hill and Wandermere neighborhoods. She’s gearing up for a busy Saturday, with expectations of a surge of customers looking for gifts and buying outfits and accessories to wear at Christmas parties.

“Spokane is great for small business shopping,” said Mulgrew, who launched her first store eight years ago.

Some loyal customers have patronized the boutiques since she opened the first store, she said.

Gregg Peak is the owner of the Christmas Store in Coeur d’Alene. The shop carries more than 1,500 types of ornaments, from $7.99 stocking stuffers to $80 crystal heirlooms.

Peak has been participating in Small Business Saturday promotions since 2010, when American Express launched the idea. He’s seen the focus on buying local take off. The Saturday before Christmas used to be the store’s busiest day. Now, the Christmas Store nets its highest sales on Small Business Saturday.

“A lot of people would rather buy locally, if they can find what they’re looking for,” Peak said.

Strong sales in November and December help carry small retailers through January, which is typically a quiet month for stores, said Ilene Moss, owner of All Things Irish in Coeur d’Alene.

All Things Irish stocks imported sweaters, scarves, jewelry and crystal. For Moss and her three employees, it’s a long stretch from Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day – the store’s next big holiday – and to the summer tourist season.

“As it is for most retailers, we really need the Christmas sales,” Moss said.

Baker, the Pop Up Store’s manager, said she’s excited to showcase the work of the store’s 22 local artists this holiday season. Some of the artists have only sold their work online. They’re interested in learning about brick-and-mortar retail opportunities, but they want to start small.

The Pop Up Shop’s 650 square feet provides that kind of immersion experience, Baker said.

The store sells “Spokane doesn’t suck” T-shirts, a tagline developed by Derrick Oliver, who moved here from Texas. One of the potters, Brooke Martinez, learned how to make ceramics from her grandmother. She visited the store to buy a gift and ended up pitching her products, which Baker accepted.

The shop’s merchandize has been well received, particularly by millennial shoppers, Baker said.

“Our customers are looking for items that are locally made and unique,” she said.

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