CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The desire to “shop small” has grown in Charlotte’s South End since the concept of Small Business Saturday started in 2010.

What started as a day to holiday-shop from vendors in the Atherton Mill market and a few local businesses, has grown to an all-day affair with shops, breweries, and a trolley to take customers to stops along a route from Bland Street to Remount Road.

Small Business Saturday was created by credit card company American Express to encourage shoppers to spend one day of the holiday season buying from locally-owned businesses. According to the company’s website, 95 million people nationwide shopped at small businesses on the day in 2015, one year after spending more than $14 billion.

“Owning a small business is different from corporate… we love it!” said Scott MacCabe, who opened Savory Spice Shop with his wife Amy in Atherton Mill on Small Business Saturday five years ago.

There have been a few bumps along the way – renovations by the building’s new owners forced them to move to a different spot around the corner – but the shop is still thriving with a strong customer base.
“It really gets us out there to a lot of new folks,” said MacCabe. “It’s exciting to see our regulars and folks come back in to celebrate it with us.”

Kristen Feighery owns The Sanctuary on Davidson’s Main Street – where every day is like Small Business Saturday – and says her seven-year success is because of people who want to buy something they can’t find anywhere else.
Her store sells only hand-made items from mostly Carolina-based artists. Feighery said without small stores like hers, many of the artists would have no place to sell their work.

More importantly, money spent in the store stays in the community.

“It pays for soccer, it pays for swimming and horseback,” said Feighery. “It’s something we enjoy and our kids benefit from it.”

Because a lot of small businesses don’t have large promotions budgets, the Town of Davidson even helped them out. Several stores have “gnome” cutouts, and a campaign encourages shoppers to take a selfie with the gnome. Shoppers who post their photos on social media with the hashtag “#MyGnomeTown” can win a prize.

Even 12-year-old Graham Ayer took advantage of the day, selling greeting cards with his drawings to customers in downtown Davidson.

“It’s mostly just a hobby,” said Ayer, who wants to use the money for art supplies and spending.
Proof that you can’t start too small, if someone is buying.