It’s no secret that Manchester needs more downtown retail. Even the shopkeepers already flourishing there agree.

“If I see another restaurant my head’s going to explode,” said Chelsea Stoddard, whose family operates two Elm Street establishments — the adorable Pop of Color gift shop and Queen City Cupcakes.

They are among several small businesses around the city that will be rolling out the red carpet and a few special deals for shoppers today, Nov. 24, for Small Business Saturday. The counterculture shopping day was created several years ago by American Express to support small businesses the day after big-box, take-your-life-into-your-own-hands Black Friday shopping.

The Manchester Chamber of Commerce has a partial list of Manchester stores with special Small Business Saturday offerings at

Mayor Joyce Craig is scheduled to help kick off the shopping at Bookery Manchester from 10 to 11 a.m. Visitors there can receive a free doughnut with any cafe purchase between 11 a.m. at 9 p.m.

Other special offers come from Van Otis Chocolates, George’s Apparel, Pearson’s Jewelers, The Framers Market, Manchester Music Mill and Antiques on Elm.

Supporting its small business neighbors is Gyro Spot, which is taking 15 percent off the bill for any customer that shows a receipt of purchase from a small business. Other restaurants are offering deals on large quantity gift card purchases.

I popped into Pop of Color Tuesday night as Stoddard popped between her two stores prepping cupcakes for the holiday rush and tending to the gift shop. Her mom, Deb Shields, was busy at her sewing machine making herb-filled flannel neck and body warmers.

Pop of Color prides itself on “gifts for any occasion” with whimsical gifts for pets, babies, men, women and those who prefer socks and oven mitts printed with curse words. Stoddard said most clientele are Monday through Friday downtown workers, although weekend business picks up when there are shows and events on the calendar.

Stoddard and Shields said Pop of Color has seen steady growth since opening more than two years ago and said they wouldn’t feel threatened by more retailers opening in the area, as long as they find their own niche.

“You have to be mindful of who is in your neighborhood and not try to compete in that way,” said Shields.

It’s hard to imagine that Stoddard and Shields have any time to think of anything but their day-to-day operations, but the health of the downtown economy and their neighboring businesses is a concern. They want to see more diversity because they hate to see established restaurants lose customers every time another new eatery tests the waters.

I love to make a day of downtown. My family recently dined on an exquisite Mexican meal at El Rincon, followed by a couple hours of board gaming at Boards & Brews and then a stop at Bookery for book browsing, giant Connect Four and, of course, the prosecco on tap. Earlier this year we had a Saturday lunch at the Thirsty Moose, visited three Hanover Street galleries, shopped at Pop of Color, and then saw a show at The Palace Theatre.

More options would make a better experience, but we won’t get them unless we patronize the ones we already have. So get downtown today and shop ‘til you drop.

Create a candy cane

You can get a taste of the Willy Wonka experience, minus the Oompa Loompas, as Van Otis Chocolates opens its factory next weekend for a limited number of visitors.

The special event allows ticket holders to watch experienced Van Otis candy makers handcraft candy canes the old fashioned way. At the end of the demonstration, customers will get to give the final touch to a sample piece to take home.

Demonstrations will be held Saturday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be seven 45-minute demonstrations held throughout the day, with just 40 customers allowed in each session.

The cost is $5, with half the proceeds going to Easterseals New Hampshire. Visit to purchase tickets.

What’s warming you this holiday season? Tell Katie about it at