With Giveaways and ‘Midd Night Strolls,’ Town Encourages Shoppers to Stay Local

By NORA PEACHIN

COURTESY PHOTO
IPJ Real Estate offered gift wrapping for local patrons.

MIDDLEBURY — While campus remained quiet with many students traveling over Thanksgiving break, downtown Middlebury welcomed the annually occurring Small Business Saturday. Local businesses greeted shoppers with hot cocoa, cider, and special deals on Saturday, Nov. 24, providing refuge from the unusually cold and snowy weather.

The event was launched by American Express in 2010, when, according to the company’s website, “small businesses [were] hurting from an economy in recession.” For the past eight years, communities across the country have continued the tradition, organizing efforts to “shop small” and support local businesses on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. In 2017, more than 7,200 neighborhoods across all 50 states participated.

According to the Addison County Economic Development Corporation, the idea behind the event is twofold. First, to encourage people to support their local economies and second, to build community, “because a visit to the family-owned shop or a stop at the neighborhood eatery not only supports local economies, but also promotes thriving communities,” the website reads.

The Middlebury Selectboard released a statement proclaiming Nov. 24, 2018 as Small Business Saturday, urging the residents of Middlebury and communities across the country “to support small businesses and merchants on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.”

“Middlebury has been participating in Small Business Saturday for a number of years,” said Karen Duguay of the Better Middlebury Partnership. “A few years ago, the former Main Street store, Clementine, was profiled nationally as part of the campaign,” she recounted.  

The feature on Emily Blistein, owner of Clementine, highlighted how Blistein engaged with customers through digital marketing. She used an email list and social media to keep them up to date on goings-on at the store. The video and article were published by Sterling Payment Technologies, a credit card processing company, in 2017.

These businesses are owned by community members who are contributing to our local economy … They truly are the backbone of our community.”

— KAREN DUGUAY

This year, the Vermont Book Shop on Main Street hosted John Vincent, of A Revolutionary Press, who sold a selection of his prints and ran a tabletop printing press. The independent bookstore also distributed copies of a young adult novel to underserved children in the community.

IPJ Real Estate contributed to the day’s festive atmosphere, offering free gift wrapping, cocoa, cider and doughnuts to anyone purchasing gifts locally. “For this year, IPJ took on the planning for wrapping gifts and hosting their Small Business Saturday event,” said Duguay.

After describing the special events of this Saturday, Duguay discussed her organization’s plans to continue their work of supporting small businesses. “The Better Middlebury Partnership is focused on extending the initiative of local shopping promotion beyond Saturday and throughout the entire shopping season, with Very Merry Middlebury events coming up, including two extended evening shopping events in the Downtown and Marble Works,” Duguay said. “Those evenings will feature great deals, promotions, specials, free tastings and more.”

The shopping evenings, or Midd Night Strolls, will be held on Dec. 6 and Dec. 13. Pop-ups, tastings, specials and giveaways are planned for both nights, according to the Experience Middlebury website.

“These businesses are owned by community members who are contributing to our local economy, they are sponsoring events, donating to little league teams and non-profit auctions,” Duguay said, speaking to the importance of supporting locally-owned small businesses. “They truly are the backbone of our community.” 

She encouraged customers to shop at these businesses not only on special days like this past Saturday, but all year-round. Shopping local, she said, is a great way to “explore what’s here and connect to something real.”

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With Giveaways and ‘Midd Night Strolls,’ Town Encourages Shoppers to Stay Local