Small Business Saturday provides a less stressful alternative

  • During Small Business Saturday Nov. 24, 2012, Taryn McGehee rings up a sale at Savory Spice in Santa Rosa. At right is part owner Pat Benfer. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Teela Ridgeway, a third-generation Petaluma resident, said she wouldn't set foot in a shopping mall during the Christmas season.

"I support Petaluma merchants and local commerce," Ridgeway said Saturday, during a visit to iLeoni, one several locally owned shops participating in Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday gives shoppers an alternative to the long, stress-filled Black Friday lines at big-box stores and shopping malls. And it offers a more personal touch than the electronic transactions of Cyber Monday.

At iLeoni, a dining and culinary essentials shop, Ridgeway ran into Carol Eber, a fellow Petaluma resident who once — or twice — completed the Alcatraz swim with her. Both Eber and Ridgeway spoke proudly of their local Sonoma County roots, which go back several generations.

"That's why I support Petaluma merchants and local commerce," said Eber, who had just purchased several holiday gifts, including a gravy separator, sauce pans and Christmas decorations.

Small Business Saturday was founded in 2010 by American Express as a way of supporting small businesses by giving them more exposure during what has become in recent years the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

American Express says that last year more than 100 million people shopped at independently-owned shops or restaurants on Small Business Saturday. As part of its promotion, American Express gives its cardholders $25 back when they shop at qualifying stores.

At Savory Spice Shop in downtown Santa Rosa, co-owner Pat Benfer said Small Business Saturday was making people more aware of the importance of small business in the community.

"They are more unique and give people more options," she said, quickly pointing out that the shop sells 100 different spices and 160 blends of spices.

Some of the spices are hard to find exotic items, such as Asafetida, which is used in Indian cuisine and Cubeb Berries, used in Morrocan food.

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