6 questions: Why Small Business Saturday matters for Seacoast shops and shoppers – Foster's Daily Democrat

What can Seacoast shop owners expect from the 2021 holiday shopping season? And why should residents shop local?
These are the kinds of questions we put to federal, state and local leaders and experts this week. 
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, visited Dover Tuesday in an effort to promote Small Business Saturday coming Nov. 27. She brought along a team of state and local business leaders on a tour, meeting with shop owners and managers, and local leaders. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-New Hampshire, made the rounds in Portsmouth. 
Here’s what we learned:
“We are seeing a ton of support  for shopping local,” said Amy Bassett, the Small Business Administration’s New Hampshire director. “We recently held a webinar to detail resources available and heard from consumers interested in showing support.”
Warren Daniel, Seacoast regional director of the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, expressed cautious optimism.
“We still have challenges this winter, with COVID,” Daniel said. “Beginning in 2022, I see an improved economy as we begin to get out of the pandemic.”
“I would say by far the greatest challenge for both industries is staffing,” Bassett said. “We hear that challenge more than any others. Business owners are taking some creative steps here to address staffing shortages, like closing a shop during their slow hours.”
“Access to a strong workforce is hard right now, but there are other challenges as well,” Daniel said. “Childcare and affordable housing are issues that, as we begin to solve them, will help our economy.”
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“We all love our vibrant downtown areas,” Bassett said. “Small businesses bring a sense of place. We would not have such great downtowns without our small businesses.”
“Shopping local keeps our money here in our communities,” Daniel said. “The people who own these businesses live in the community. Their kids go to school here, so we should be supporting each other. Downtowns are a vital part of any community, and shopping local will have benefits that seep into the greater community.”
Why should you shop local? Seacoast shops make push for Small Business Saturday
Much as it did during the 1990s recession, the SBA has been helping keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic with loan programs, according to Shaheen. The senator said the Small Business Development Center has helped with the technical side of things.
“Our ability to work together, all agencies and facets of government, is what is bringing us through this,” Shaheen said. 
Shaheen said President Joe Biden’s decision Tuesday to release 50 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves will help businesses by improving supply chains, as will the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill recently signed into law.
Shaheen specifically cited the State Trade Expansion Program, known as STEP, for assisting with export-related activities. She said $60 million over two years for STEP is in Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which recently passed the U.S. House and is in talks in the Senate.
Mike Vlacich, newly appointed administrator for the Small Business Administration’s New England region, said there is growing confidence in the economy.
“We are seeing some historic jobs growth and economic recovery,” he said. “The infrastructure bill will have a lot of positive impact. Businesses rely on telecommunications, broadband and roads and bridges for their supply chain.”
Kerry Wood, owner of Noggin Factory Toy Shop, said toys purchased in the shop become treasured possessions. She said the business serves loyal Dover customers and caters to many visitors to the city.
“When people come here, we try to match them with the perfect gift,” Wood said. “We make shopping an experience you will never get in big-box stores. We select our toys carefully, to be the best. If we ever get to the point where all shopping is done online, that magical experience of coming to a place like this will be forever lost. I think kids want that magic.”
Lickee’s & Chewy’s Candies & Creamery owner Chris Guerrette said the shop thrived during the pandemic.
“Families wanted a place to go, and we offer items you will find nowhere but here,” he said. “We grew by leaps and bounds.”
“Two-thirds of our products can’t be bought anywhere else,” he added. “We order six months in advance, much from Europe. We make products here. We hire local high school and college students. We have five full-time employees in a candy shop. Since everyone here is local, we work hard to support local. We support football teams, music clubs. If they come and ask, we will try to find a way to help. There’s lots more but that’s what happens when you shop local.”
Britnie Lia, director of operations at The Sassy Biscuit Co., said the restaurant and others in Dover have worked to help each other during the pandemic.
“Our customers have been amazingly understanding,” Lia said. “The staff is family to us and we all depended on each other to make things work during the pandemic. We have amazing staff, a lot of them are Dover High School or college students. We appreciate every one of them.”
More:Why should you shop local? Seacoast shops make push for Small Business Saturday
Pappas grew up in a family running a restaurant in Manchester.
“This holiday season it’s more important than ever to remember to shop small and think local,” Pappas said. “Supporting local businesses will help our communities recover from the pandemic and ensure our Main Streets continue to thrive.”
In Portsmouth, Tom Holbrook, owner of the independent RiverRun Bookstore, announced he is putting a big emphasis on Small Business Saturday. So much so, he said, the bookstore will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and the day after, known as Black Friday, a retail shopping day pushed hard by retailers nationally.
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“It’s been a crazy year,” Holbrook said. “I’m thrilled with how the bookstore has survived, and even thrived during the pandemic. It never could have happened without my incredible staff, and they deserve to spend time with their families over Thanksgiving.
“Plus, it’s Native American Heritage Day, which shouldn’t be buried by rabid shoppers rampaging for bargains,” he added. “I’ve thought about doing this for years, and this year finally seemed like the right time.”
RiverRun will hold an online only 20% off sale from Friday, Nov. 26 through “Cyber Monday” on Nov. 29 at riverrunbookstore.com featuring of the season’s most popular books. The store will offer a “buy four get one free” sale Saturday in the shop.

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