Let's get small

Don't forget local businesses in after-Thanksgiving shopping

Are you going to the small to shop?

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has all of a sudden become a tradition of its own: Small Business Saturday, when consumers are encouraged to “Shop Small” at local retailers.

We encourage you to think of locally owned businesses all over the region, but downtown Augusta has a dense and perhaps surprisingly diverse and vibrant retail community that, oddly enough, seems to be on the upswing even in today’s economy.

There’s Artist’s Row, of course, but plenty of other shops – and a growing menu of restaurants and bistros for every taste.

“A taste of Britain and Greece and a bit of country music and whiskey have been added to the mix of restaurants and bars in downtown Augusta,” The Chronicle’s Meg Mirshak reported recently. “Downtown Saloon opened Nov. 2 at 1128 Broad St. The country music and dance bar is modeled after the Market Street Saloon in downtown Charleston, S.C. ...”

In addition, the owners of Metro A Coffee House and Pub have opened the full-service menu Whiskey Bar Kitchen next door.

The Greek and Italian “Eros Bistro” restaurant will open Dec. 1 at 10th and Broad, while Boar’s Head Public House will open the first week in December in the 1100 block of Broad.

For after-Thanksgiving shoppers, you’ll find discounts just like at the chains. The Book Tavern, 1026 Broad St., has discounts up to 50 percent on Friday, of course, but a special treat to really help shoppers go “small” Saturday: From noon to 4, the store will feature local authors signing their books, including David H. Hanks, who was on the International Atomic Energy Agency team awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Other local authors signing their books include The Chronicle’s own Charmain Zimmerman Brackett (noon to 4 p.m.) and Bill Baab (2-4 p.m.)

Figuring the big boys had Black Friday and the online retailers have “Cyber Monday,” American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010. It caught on so quickly that 100 million jumped in to participate last year – and it’s already a tradition. American Express even offers marketing advice and materials to small businesses and rewards to its enrolled cardmembers who “Shop Small.”

The company’s website even has a map of Augusta-area small businesses officially enrolled in its Shop Small program, at americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/.

The map makes downtown look like an absolute pincushion.

“Last year, we participated and had the best Saturday we’ve had since opening,” says David Hutchinson, owner of The Book Tavern.

One other added benefit to Augusta, Aiken and other small business locations around the region, particularly in downtown areas, is the ambience. There’s something refreshing, as opposed to hectic, about wandering along outdoor sidewalks for bargains and bistros. And the forecast calls for mostly strollable with a good chance of lounging.

Absolutely go to the mall.

But think about going to the small too.

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