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Valerie Clarke browses at Pieces boutique in Martinsville on Saturday. She was one of the winners of "uptown bucks," which could be spent at shops in uptown Martinsville, in a scavenger hunt sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry Chamber of Commerce to promote Small Business Saturday.

A campaign supporting Small Business Saturday appears to have paid off for some uptown businesses. The cold, rainy weather didn’t stop shoppers from spending money at locally owned shops and restaurants the weekend after Thanksgiving.

National chain retailers typically offer deep Black Friday discounts the day after Thanksgiving, but in 2010, American Express launched Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to support small businesses with their holiday shopping. For every dollar spent at a small, locally owned shop, 67 cents stays in the community, according to an economic impact study by American Express.

Locally, two business organizations held promotions this year to encourage shoppers to keep their dollars in the community. Earlier in November, the Martinsville-Henry County Visitors Center had its “Dine Small” campaign, giving away free vouchers good for $10 at participating restaurants. The vouchers could be spent on meals at 14 local eateries on Small Business Saturday only.

Meanwhile, competition was fierce for “Uptown Bonus Bucks” hidden around town in a scavenger hunt organized by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. Each day for 12 days leading up to Small Business Saturday, the chamber posted clues on Facebook to the location of boxes containing gift certificates that could be spent at participating shops uptown.

Valerie Clarke and Eric Bowling found three of the clues and headed uptown on Small Business Saturday to spend their winnings.

“It’s a really nice thing they’re doing to stimulate the local economy,” Clarke said. “I like any excuse to shop.”

They started with coffee at The Daily Grind, then headed to Pieces boutique. Clarke was perusing the fashions there a little before noon, when Bowling saw another clue in the uptown scavenger hunt pop up on Facebook and headed down Church Street in pursuit.

“He’s been refreshing the page all morning, waiting for the clue to be posted,” Clarke said with a laugh. “Eric loves winning and loves anything to do with Martinsville.”

On Friday, the two followed a clue to the site of the former Big Chair in the Broad Street parking lot, where they encountered some friendly competition. “Two other girls were already there looking,” Clarke said. However, in the holiday spirit, the four decided to split the winnings when they found the box.

Clarke said she and Bowling planned to check out Books and Crannies and Sparkle Me Pretty next. Saturday was also Bowling’s birthday, and after shopping, they headed to Kafenio cafe for a celebratory lunch with Bowling’s parents. Not only did they use the Uptown Bonus Bucks, they also had a Dine Small voucher from the Visitors Center.

“If they’re going to do it, I’m going to support it,” Bowling said. “I enjoy supporting local businesses.”

Elizabeth Decker, who grew up in Martinsville but lives in Bluefield, also did some shopping uptown with her mother, Penny, while visiting home for Thanksgiving. They picked out some clothing at Pieces before heading down the street to other shops.

“It’s a tradition. We usually do this the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Elizabeth Decker said.

Working at Pieces on Saturday was Brenda Simpson, whose daughter owns the shop. She said traffic was “great” on both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

“I think this is a really great event,” she said of the uptown promotion campaign. “Any events like this that get people uptown really give them an idea of what we have and help our sales.”

At the Daily Grind Coffeehouse, manager Elizabeth Kendall said some customers had showed up with Uptown Bonus Bucks as well as Dine Small certificates. She said post-Thanksgiving sales had been promising so far.

“We appreciate them encouraging residents to keep their money in town and invest in local people,” Kendall said. On Friday and Saturday, she added, “We’ve been selling the fire out of some peppermint mochas.”

Sure enough, just then an order for a peppermint mocha came through the drive-through. Kendall showed new employee Laura Washington, a student at Martinsville High School, how to tamp down the espresso grounds to make the drink.

Despite the increased traffic, “she’s been handling the extra pressure like a champ,” Kendall said of Washington.

Around Thanksgiving, “We tend to get a lot of out-of-town people visiting. A lot of our regulars bring their visiting family here for that post-turkey-coma coffee,” Kendall said.

On Broad Street, owner DeShanta Hairston kept Books and Crannies open longer than usual for Small Business Saturday. She opened the cash register to show a stack of Uptown Bonus Bucks received that day.

“It went really good today,” she said. “The uptown bucks helped. I looked back at my Small Business Saturday sales for the last two years, and this year I doubled my sales.”

Hairston said this was also her first year keeping the bookstore open for Black Friday, and it was busy enough that she plans to continue in the future. “We’ve had a lot of people coming in from out of town,” she said. “The weather didn’t seem to stop them.”

Kim Barto Meeks is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at 276-638-8801.

Kim Barto Meeks is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at 276-638-8801. 

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