Strategically scheduled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the day after arguably the busiest shopping day of the year has become “Small Business Saturday,” when what many consider the backbone of free enterprise officially takes center stage for the eighth straight year.
The holiday has seen grassroots support for local ventures increase substantially. Last year an estimated 112 million customers shopped at independently-owned businesses, up from 95 million in 2015, according to American Express, which started the day.
Shoppers shelled out $15 billion on Small Business Saturday last year.
The owners and managers of several locally run businesses took time Saturday to talk a little history and their experience on Black Friday, when they found themselves competing with the giants of retailing.
At Morrison’s Gifts, 4308, W. Waco Drive, owner Sally Dickenson said hot items included a line of totes and luggage from San Antonio-based Jon Hart Design and candle holders produced from recycled wine bottles by a company called Rewined headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina.
“We’re always open on Black Friday,” Dickenson said. “People come with their families, and we serve hot apple cider and have a good time.”
The 38-year-old business was founded by Morrison Mebane, who for decades operated Tri-Cities Pharmacy in Woodway.
Brent Bankston, owner of the Bankston’s retailer of sports cards, comics and collectibles on South Valley Mills Drive, said he enjoyed the biggest turnout he probably has ever had on Black Friday. He said longtime customers started asking about special promotions early in the week.
“We’re typically not No. 1 on anybody’s shopping list, but that has changed, times have changed,” Bankston said. “People come by in groups, looking for entertainment and something to do. Usually one or two are true fans, and the others are just tagging along.”
He said he conducted about 500 transactions throughout Black Friday and staggered starting times for sales on vintage games, comics and toys.
Bankston said the biggest sale of the day went to a regular customer who spent close to $1,000. He bought a National Treasures set of baseball cards produced by the Dallas-based Panini company for $599, and two other less expensive packages of baseball-themed cards.
“The National Treasures is high end and something collectors look forward to every year,” Bankston said. “The cards are all low-number and autographed, include a swatch of material and are offered in an attractive wooden case. They are highly sought after.”
Bankston’s has been in business since 1985.
At Don’s Humidor and Coffee Beans, 1412 N. Valley Mills Drive in Town West Center, owner Carol Harwell said she doesn’t bother to open on Black Friday “because most of my men are at home watching football or out deer hunting or driving women around to drop in front of other stores.”
Traffic was brisk Saturday, when Harwell filled demand for cigars and gourmet coffee beans. Don’s has operated since the late 1960s, Harwell said.
Donna Carroll, owner of Golden’s Book Exchange on Franklin Avenue, said customers flocked to the store on Black Friday to buy discounted books, comics, records and gift certificates.
“I’ve been in business 40 years, and at the same location 37 years,” Carroll said. “We buy, sell and trade. Our motto is ‘Read, relax and recycle.’ For 40 years, we’ve tried to make reading available for everyone.”
She has regulars who travel to Golden’s from Temple, Gatesville and Corsicana, and in recent months has noticed an increase in traffic from outside the state. Book enthusiasts in town to visit Magnolia Market at the Silos downtown travel to Golden’s while in Waco, she said.
Sue Goodwin, owner of North Waco Tropical Fish on North 15th Street, said Black Friday typically generates a limited number of sales for the 53-year-old shop, and this past Friday was no different. She said shoppers are pursuing bargains at big-box retailers around Greater Waco.
“My daughter wondered if we should just close for the day, but we made enough to warrant staying open, and we’re offering deals that will last through Sunday, including a sale on aquarium lights,” Goodwin said.
Wildland Supply, 721 Washington Ave., enjoyed steady traffic throughout Black Friday.
“We had the whole store on sale, which happens once a year,” owner Kate Duncan said.
Wildland has been open almost three years.
The Game Closet, which does business in Fairgate shopping center at Bosque Boulevard and New Road, attracted “our basic clientele” on Black Friday, said Richard Banana, who has owned the 20-year-old business for about two years. He estimates he offers at least a thousand games for sale, in addition to providing a venue for contests.
“It’s a unique business in that we specialize in what is called European-style board games,” Banana said. “We can’t get conventional board games from major manufacturers because they have deals with big-name, big-box retailers. But I have my own distributors here in the United States and in Europe that keep me supplied. We also help people make games.”
Furniture makes up 70 percent of the trade generated by Junque in the Trunk on LaSalle Avenue, proprietor Emily Jones-Roberts said.
“We had a better Black Friday than a normal Friday, with most sales involving Christmas stuff, Christmas decor,” Jones-Roberts said.
She said Junque in the Trunk was featured in a pilot program called “Texas Household Gold” that has aired on the DIY Network. Four other establishments from the Dallas area also have roles, and a decision on the future of the endeavor is due in a matter of days.
“The theme of the show revolves around each company visiting an estate sale and putting to use the items purchased there,” she said.