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Spokane's Small Business Saturday kicks off amid pandemic

The event is spread out across multiple weeks this year amid new COVID-19 restrictions.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash — Small Business Saturday has officially kicked off in Kendall Yards on Saturday, Nov. 28. Store owners say it's one of the busiest days of the year for local shops, but this year had some changes.

In previous years, the one-day-event garners a rush of customers, exactly the opposite of what Governor Jay Inslee put in his COVID-19 guidelines for this year.

Knowing that stores would have to reduce their capacity to 25%, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward made a proclamation that every Saturday until December 12 will be Small Business Saturday. 

"It's like she was reading everyone's minds," French Toast - mama and mini co-owner Julia Lara said. "We want to see it celebrated all season long instead of just one day."

Lara knows the industry from the inside and out, she also works with the Washington Small Business Development Center. She has seen how the local economy has been impacted by coronavirus restrictions, Lara said.

"Shopping small makes a huge impact in ripples that you might not even think of," Lara added. "So every time you spend $1 in the community on a small business, over 60 cents of that actually stays in the community."

But more is not always merrier, according to Boutique Bleu owner Amy Driscoll. Capacity limits have caused her store to only allow five customers in at a time, essentially pushing away potential buyers. 

To help her store stay afloat, she came up with a solution: online local shopping. It has worked in her favor, too. 

"When we revamped our website, we immediately started seeing people shopping online," Driscoll said. "We got a lot of curbside pickup locally and then we've also been able to reach other people in the United States, which we wouldn't have done otherwise."

 The clothing shop now has two avenues of sales, she said.

"We are getting orders from New York, California, Texas, Canada and many more," Driscoll said.

So not only does shopping small, whether it is in person or online, support Spokane's businesses, but it supports the local economy and has brought the community together. 

"It's been an amazing thing to be a part of in the past, but it means even more now with COVID," Prairie Dog Mercantile associate Eva Ellert said. "All of our customers have banded together, not only to keep us open and support us, but also to keep everyone safe if they continue to come into the store."

Credit: Morgan Trau
Small Business Saturday

The pet shop is one of the smaller spaces in the shopping district, with them only allowed to have two customers in at a time. The people who come into the store are used to being patient for their turn, Ellert added.

"If someone has a dog in here and somebody else comes in with a dog, we always make sure that they're giving each other space and respectful of each other's bubbles," Ellert said. 

If a customer knows their dog is temperamental, they would already be waiting outside if another animal was inside.

"We're always rooting for every Saturday to be a Small Business Saturday," Ellert said.

Local business owners are your neighbors, your family and your community members, so the stores are encouraging everyone to stop by to help support the city. 

"The people that just come out and shop, once a year, now they're going to remember to shop small year round, which I love," Lara said. "Please shop local."