By Mary Heyl

Celebrate and perhaps discover a small business right in your own neighborhood on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25. While most associate the weekend after Thanksgiving with big box stores and long lines, Small Business Saturday promotes shopping local for unique gifts! Many local businesses throughout the area are participating in this national shopping day, offering sales, specials and simply a better holiday shopping experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

Since 2010, Small Business Saturday, which was created by American Express, has brought attention to the importance of shopping local and the incredible impact this has on one’s community. While the event has been gaining traction every year, with $15.4 billion spent at independent retailers and restaurants in 2016 (up more than $1 billion since 2014), it’s not getting any easier for independent merchants to compete with big box stores and online sales.

For the first time ever, online sales are expected to surpass in-store sales this holiday season, according to Business Insider. But are online deals and free shipping all they’re cracked up to be? As the American Independent Business Alliance points out, “Of course, we usually choose to do business where we perceive the best value for our time and money…but the unrelenting emphasis on cheapness above all other values leads many people to overlook the values independent businesses provide us.”

“Put your money where your house is!” is a popular phrase that really illustrates the literal impact of shopping local on your community. When you shop locally, your money is twice as likely to stay in your community, as local businesses owners typically buy local, employ locals and patronize other local businesses (local banks, contractors, lawyers, accountants and more). Small businesses are owned by people who live locally and are invested in their community; they care about the community’s future, they support local fundraisers and non-profits and they add more to the local tax base.

Consumers benefit from shopping local too! Local businesses carry a more varied selection of merchandise including items unique to the area, such as items made by area crafters and artisans, locally made food products and more. Customer service at small businesses is friendlier and more personal, as those employees and the owners, themselves, have more specific product expertise and experience than seasonal employees at chain stores. Although you may pay more for some items, when you factor in the savings in shipping charges, the ease of making returns or exchanges, being able to try before you buy (from trying on clothing to sampling a store’s goodies/beverages) and the transportation time you save by shopping local, it really is worth it.

Not only is Nov. 25 Small Business Saturday, but it’s also a part of Christmas in Ellicottville weekend—the perfect time to enjoy the start of the holiday season and your holiday shopping. “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” Christmas in Ellicottville begins on Friday, November 24 – and continues all weekend and throughout the season. Throughout the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, activities will include Christmas carolers, a live reindeer, breakfast with Santa, horse and wagon rides, interactive children’s activities as well as Fire Truck rides with Santa, and it’s all free! Stay tuned for the schedule of events in the Ellicottville Times as it gets closer.

From beautiful clothing to ski/snowboard gear to cheese, chocolate, wine and so much more, Ellicottville’s unique shops have something for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Many of these stores will be open for extended hours on Small Business Saturday and have special deals and promotions in the spirit of the day!

Don’t forget to show love to your favorite Ellicottville restaurants, too, as “Dine Local” is a large part of Small Business Saturday’s campaign—and of course, you’ll need to fuel up for a full day of shopping! To learn more about Small Business Saturday, including ways to get involved and a listing of participating local businesses, visit