• 48°

Small businesses prep for busy weekend

Local small businesses will have some much-needed time in the spotlight this Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, the second in a string of shopping “holidays” that begins with Black Friday, gives local merchants a chance to show off their products and offer enticing deals with the heart of the holiday season just weeks away.

Sure, many of those businesses will have their doors open for Black Friday deals as well. But in the tail end of what has been a nightmarish year for those local establishments — a year filled with COVID-19-related restrictions, closures and uncertainty — having a day dedicated to supporting small businesses is crucial for the local economy.

“This is the time for a lot of our businesses that makes or breaks them,” Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce Director Catherine Glover said. “It decides how they’re going to do for the year.

“It was such a challenging year. I would say now, more than ever, is the time to make it a priority to shop local.”

For patrons who don’t feel comfortable visiting stores in-person amid the pandemic, Glover added that local businesses will usually be willing to make arrangements with them — whether it’s scheduling a time for them to come in when the store is less crowded, directing them to an online ordering platform or any other alternative.

Gale Champion, one of the artists at the co-op gallery River Walk on Main Street, said the gallery is anticipating a spike in business the weekend after Thanksgiving, and she noted that newly-renovated Main Street should help bring more shoppers to downtown Washington.

Those shoppers will find big discounts all along Main Street, whether they’re shopping for art at a local gallery like River Walk or Lemonade Art Gallery, or perusing the various other shops Main Street has to offer — many of which kept their doors open while the city’s $3.4 million streetscape projected unfolded in front of them.

“It will be wonderful for people to be able to drive down and see that there’s wider sidewalks to walk down, that offer more social distancing opportunities,” Glover said. “It’s perfect timing, as we go into the holiday season, to have (Main Street) open.

“It’ll be an improved area — you’ll have Christmas music and places for people to sit. And so it will just enhance that shopping experience.”