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Small Business Saturday gets mixed results in Queens

Lexi Beach is the co-owner of Astoria Bookshop.
Photo by Gabriel Rom
By Gabriel Rom

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday was created to encourage shoppers across the country to support mom-and-pop shops in their neighborhoods. In in eastern Queens, eager buyers were scant, but shoppers turned out in greater numbers in the western part of the borough.

On a damp Saturday morning Richard Valenti, owner of B & B Beverage Distributors in Bayside, stood outside his empty store and sipped his coffee.

“Bayside wakes up kind of late on a Saturday,” Valenti said. “I haven’t seen much traffic, but later, we’ll probably have a nice day.”

According to a Small Business Saturday spokesman from American Express, which runs the event, the promotional day has grown every year, with 88 million shoppers spending money at independent businesses during last year’s event.

But those figures meant little to Diana Someck, owner of Yvette Lingerie on Bell Boulevard in Bayside. For her, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was just like any other.

“Where is everybody?” Someck wondered. “It’s nothing spectacular,” she said shaking her head. “Just like any other Saturday.”

But in parts of the borough closer to Manhattan, business owners found creative ways to lure shoppers.

“It has been great,” said Nicole Panettieri, owner of The Brass Owl in Astoria.

“We have been incredibly busy today and I think it shows that people in the area are really excited to support local shops.”

Panettieri had organized a small business retail crawl, enlisting ten other Astoria stores to participate. If customers shopped at six or more of the participating businesses, they were entered to win a package of merchandise.

For Astoria Bookshop, which also participated in the retail crawl, the day was one of its busiest of the year.

“Today was not a typical Saturday,” said a tired but satisfied Lexi Beach, who co-owns the bookstore. “It was a very good day. It was way above our average weekend. It’s my favorite day of the year. It’s just fun.”

Shoppers said they appreciated the store’s calmness.

“It’s an enthusiastic type of shopping day here, but not necessarily people crawling on top of each other,” said shopper Molly Templeton. “It’s just pleasant.”

“Black Friday has become such a monster,” she added. “So doing something like coming out to a local bookstore helps balance it out. ”

According to Beach and Panettieri, the retail crawl was a grassroots initiative organized by the businesses themselves.

“This is a neighborhood that is eager to support small business,” Beach said. “It’s something that I’ve seen right from the beginning, and a day like today just confirms it.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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