PROVIDENCE – After many holiday shopping events went virtual last year due to COVID-19, businesses are making an in-person return this season.
For local businesses, the holiday shopping season kicks off this coming weekend on Small Business Saturday.
On Tuesday morning, Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza joined the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau and local business owners ahead of Small Business Saturday to encourage residents to turn to local vendors for their holiday gift-giving needs.
“If it’s about buying stuff, then let’s make the most of it,” Elorza said in his call to keep dollars in the local economy this holiday season, whether that’s through buying a gift from a local shop, taking a loved one out to dinner at one of the city’s unique restaurants, or going to a craft market or holiday walk.
“By shopping and dining local, you’re supporting local,” Elorza said, adding that shopping within the community helps to solidify Providence’s reputation as a creative capitol.
One local business hoping to feel the boost from Small Business Saturday is Res American Bistro, which hosted the Tuesday morning gathering.
Res, which opened during the pandemic, has been “met with a deluge of support from the community” throughout its run, said co-owner Stephen White. As residents prepare for the holiday season, White said that supporting local businesses helps to keep the downtown community strong.
Kin Southern Table and Bar, which also opened during the pandemic, also relies on a community that “fiercely supports spaces that provide quality products and experiences,” said owner Julia Broome.
Sandra Enos, founder and CEO of Giving Beyond the Box, also spoke at the event.
Through this commitment to shopping local, “we invest in our neighbors, we invest in our communities, and we invest in ourselves,” said Stephanie Fortunato, director of the Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism.
Elsewhere in the state, other cities and towns are also gearing up for Small Business Saturday.
Also on Tuesday, Small Business Administration District Director Mark S. Hayward joined the R.I. congressional delegation in East Greenwich for a downtown walking tour, which included stops at five local businesses.
Rhode Island is home to nearly 100,000 small businesses, according to the SBA.
On Nov. 27, the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick will host over 160 businesses for its fifth annual Small Business Saturday Shop Rhode Island event, held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event was held virtually last year but didn’t attract its usual numbers, said Sue Babin, the event’s chairperson.
This year, businesses are eager to return to form, Babin said, as evidenced by the event’s sold out vendor slots, with another 40 businesses on a waitlist.
“People are so anxious to be able to get out there and begin a financial comeback,” Babin said, “so they’re really looking forward to this event.”
The pop-up shopping experience will offer customers the opportunity to buy from a diverse group of entrepreneurs and artists, Babin said.
“If your family is like mine, a lot of us didn’t get together last year, and we kind of put our gifts on hold,” Babin said, “so to be able to offer a gift that is handmade or unique really helps to go along with the spirit of the holiday season.”
The day usually attracts over 3,000 people, according to Babin, and organizers are anticipating a similar crowd size this year.
SBS Shop R.I. has reserved the entire first floor of the Crowne Plaza to accommodate vendors and shoppers.
Hand sanitizer will be available at the event, and masks are optional. If people are not comfortable attending in-person, SBS Shop R.I. has participating vendors listed on its website to connect shoppers with online buying opportunities, Babin said.
While many businesses are in a better place this year compared to 2020, local vendors still depend on the community’s support, Kristen Adamo, Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO, said in a statement.
“As we relaunched the Buy Local RI campaign last holiday season, small businesses were struggling to survive and didn’t know what the next day, week, or month might bring,” Adamo said. “Those struggles, while maybe not as dire, still exist this holiday season.”
To encourage local shopping, Providence has enacted free two-hour parking in commercial districts from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Dec. 31.
(UPDATES throughout with details, comment on the fifth annual Small Business Saturday Shop Rhode Island event; MINOR edits.)
Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.
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