'Small Business Saturday' focuses on Main StreetBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
November 24. 2016 10:29PM
LITTLETON — Soon after Black Friday becomes a memory, the U.S. Small Business Administration and its partner, American Express, hope that New Hampshire shoppers will embrace Small Business Saturday, and support businesses in their communities.
AmEx established Small Business Saturday to promote “shopping small” in recognition of the fact, according to the SBA, that such retailers “… generate two out of every three net new jobs and deliver essential goods and services to America’s communities 365 days a year,” while also employing more than half of the country’s private workforce.
As a preview to and spotlight for Small Business Saturday 2016, Greta Johansson, who is the SBA’s New Hampshire district director, led a walkabout of downtown Littleton on Monday that included stops at Chutters candy store; Just L antiques; Littleton Bike & Fitness; the League of N.H. Craftsmen; the One Stitch, Two Stitch quilt shop; and the Little Village Toy and Book Shop.
In past years, the tours have been in the downtowns of Nashua, Dover and Concord, in 2015, said Johansson.
She said her decision to come to the North Country was a direct result of Littleton having a vibrant, business-filled and walkable downtown that has been and is being extensively renovated.
Another draw, she added, is that in Littleton, “everybody’s pitching in” to make the downtown a success, including the town and businesses that have supported both downtown-specific improvements and the adjacent Riverwalk District along the Ammonoosuc River.
“We’re here to highlight the vibrancy of Main streets and local holiday shopping,” said Johansson during a stop at Just L, a business that bills itself as one that offers “modern antiques and intriguing items.”
“Every dollar spent locally spurs $7 in additional spending,” Johansson added, while the act of shopping locally also helps build a sense of place and fosters exploration because “you’re not making a trip for just one thing.”
Clare Brooks, who has owned and operated the Little Village Toy and Book Shop for more than 2 years, said foot traffic on Main Street has helped her business expand three times.
“It’s been a really good year. We had a huge leaf-peeper season” she said. It was boosted by large numbers of both locals and bus tours that stopped in Littleton, said Brooks.
Beth Anderson, of One Stitch, Two Stitch, said moving her business from Whitefield to the more pedestrian-friendly Littleton has “helped immensely.” She agreed with Brooks that Littleton’s downtown is a popular place for everyone, including tourists, because of the variety and number of its offerings in addition to special annual events, like Pollyanna Day.
A walkable downtown is “crucial” to business success, said Brooks, who noted that her inventory has increased from 30,000 items when she opened to almost 200,000 now.
Beth Simon of the League of N.H. Craftsmen, joked that she considers her store to be located “in the heart of the midtown,” and that in addition to being a businessperson herself, she represents some 200 other businessmen and women who are the league’s artists and craftsmen.
“It’s extremely important,” she said, that Main Street in Littleton remains a place that is inviting year-round and has not only multiple shopping and dining opportunities available, but also places to meander through, like the Riverwalk.
“We have very loyal customers,” and they along with regional and government agencies have helped the League of N.H. Craftsmen grow in Littleton, said Simon.
While the Northern Community Investment Corporation assisted her in finding financing, the SBA, she said, “really helped me become a better businesswoman.”
For a list of New Hampshire retailers participating in Small Business Saturday, go to shopsmall.com.
Darcy Carter, the Acting New England Regional Administrator for the SBA, said in a prepared statement that last year, 95 million consumers “shopped small and spent more than $16.2 billion.”
“New Englanders are passionate about supporting local businesses and the stores lining its Main Streets,” said Carter. “These stores are owned and operated by our friends and neighbors.... Continuing to support these local businesses keeps our downtowns energetic.”