‘Answer the call:’ community asked to shop small businesses on Saturday

Erika Pritchard
Hub Staff

KEARNEY — Small businesses support the community year after year, said Kearney Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Derek Rusher.

“Now it’s time for our community to answer the call and go out and shop,” he said. That is the message Rusher is sending to Kearney area residents this holiday season.

It’s more important than ever, he said, to support local businesses that have dealt with slumping sales as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rusher estimates that small businesses, including retail and restaurants, are operating at 60% of their normal income.

“I feel like if our community doesn’t support our businesses these next 40 days they might not stay open. There’s some businesses, we have that concern that they’re just not going to keep their doors open,” Rusher said.

Downtown Kearney director Bridgett Lavene also hopes shoppers patronize small, local businesses this holiday season.

“It is important to shop local, not only to support them, but because it keeps the dollars flowing through the local economy,” Lavene said.

Rusher said small business contribute to the tax base and shopping local directly affects everything Kearney has to offer.

“People always talk about why Kearney is so safe, why Kearney is clean, our school systems and how they’re supported,” he said.

Small businesses also have donated to countless local fundraisers, organizations and sports teams. One business owner told Rusher he had donated more than $100,000 “worth of stuff” in his 10 years of business.

To encourage people to shop local, Lavene is organizing the annual Small Business Saturday tomorrow when many retailers are offering sales.

Beginning at 9 a.m., the first 100 shoppers may pick up a free swag bag at Ktown Cakery at 2300 Central Ave. Most downtown stores open at 10 a.m., Lavene said.

The bags include hand sanitizer and masks this year. Lavene asks that patrons shop in groups of eight people or fewer, maintain 6 feet of distance from others and to follow the city mask mandate.

Lavene said following the social distancing guidelines should be easy to do in downtown Kearney.

“I think downtown is a great place to shop because it’s not overcrowded, it’s quaint, it’s small and it’s easy to monitor the amount people that are in the stores,” she said.

If people don’t feel comfortable shopping in person, Rusher and Lavene said Kearney businesses have adapted to serve their customers.

“They will deliver. They’ll do curbside. They’ll do basically whatever you need to accommodate you,” Rusher said.

Some businesses, such as Edith Joi, a women’s clothing boutique at 2122 Central Ave., have boosted their social media presence. Co-owner Stacey Johnson said she offers shopping experiences through Facebook Live every Wednesday but has produced these videos more often during the pandemic.

People also may shop while on FaceTime with Johnson.

“The other day I sent a girl 15 different videos and I just walked around the store and showed her every single piece we had in her size,” she said.

Johnson, co-owner Jocelyn Johnson and their two employees wear different sized clothing, so they will try on clothes for clients to demonstrate the fit.

Edith Joi also will book private shopping sessions for groups of 10 or smaller.

Lavene said other small businesses have adapted to the pandemic by selling to-go kits for crafting at home. She said Paint Paradise sold painting kits, Divas Floral Shop and Boutique and Kearney Floral Co. created floral kits and Ktown Cakery made cookie decorating kits.

Ktown Cakery owner Kari Printz said she also has sold smaller cakes and pies during the pandemic.

“We have made it a point to meet where they are. I get it. Gatherings are smaller,” she said.

Because the smaller baked goods sell for less, Printz has had to sell more goodies to more people. She said she has been successful in doing so.

“People have just turned out by the droves to support, even though they are smaller, just to support small business,” she said.

Wednesday afternoon she and her staff were busy shipping off hundreds of Thanksgiving pie orders. On Saturday, Printz will begin to sell Christmas treats such as berry tarts, Boston cream pie and a Yule log.

Printz encourages people to shop local and come out for Small Business Saturday.

“In my heart of hearts I’m a small banker’s daughter, so I grew up supporting local. And as a business owner now, I understand it more than ever,”she said. “So not only do our dollars stay here and we continue to reinvest, but we work our tail off. Everything I do here is just to employ the girls that I employ.”

Johnson, who also works as promotions director for the chamber, said downtown Kearney offers a variety of shops, including specialty stores, restaurants, coffee shops, furniture stores and boutiques.

“I can look out our window and see eight different boutiques just from our front door. We all do something that’s different. We all have our different styles. We all have different price points and different things to offer,” she said.

Original article can be found here.

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