HERMITAGE — When shoppers visit some of the city's businesses for Small Business Saturday, they'll have a chance to take their support online — potentially winning prizes while promoting businesses.
On Small Business Saturday, which falls on Nov. 26 this year, customers are encouraged to shop at locally-owned businesses. But for a city like Hermitage, businesses are spread out, preventing the kind of door-to-door foot traffic in places such as downtown Sharon.
To help connect and promote those businesses, city Director of Recreation and Community Events Jessica Gotch said Hermitage officials have kicked off an online initiative for Small Business Saturday — the first initiative of its kind for this event.
"We thought that if we used our online presence to promote some of these businesses, we can make the actual event center around that online platform," Gotch said.
Businesses are able to register with the city, either by visiting the "City of Hermitage, PA" Facebook page or visiting hermitage.net and clicking "Forms."
This will allow the city to promote the businesses, along with any special deals, online and supplying promotional materials in return.
When Nov. 26 comes, consumers can take a selfie of themselves while patronizing a small business, then post that selfie with the tag "#ShopHermitagePA22."
Later during the following week, a winner will be chosen from among the many participating consumers, with the announcement posted to Facebook, Gotch said.
That winner will receive a prize including gifts provided by the many businesses who participated in the city's online initiative.
Although many of the businesses provided gift cards, Gotch said some donations ranged from a Norwegian Cruise Line bottle to a bag of coffee to a full synthetic oil change — reflecting the diverse array of businesses in Hermitage.
"We got a lot of gift cards but there were quite a few different things too," Gotch said.
One of those businesses already registered with the city's online initiative is Cottage Gardens, where Ryen Roberts, one of the owners, said the store has maintained an online presence for years.
That presence has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the store now maintains pages on Instagram and Facebook, as well as its own website, cottagegardens.org — which is why Roberts said the business was open to the city's online initiative for Small Business Saturday.
"It's another outlet for us and it lets us be a part of the community," Roberts said.
Store officials still advertise the old-fashioned way, but social media, particularly Facebook, allows Cottage Gardens to post updates on specials and store hours more immediately for customers.
In turn, that online presence has helped open up Cottage Garden to a broader audience, Roberts said.
For Small Business Saturday, Cottage Gardens will enter customers into a prize drawing at their greenhouse with every purchase.
The business will also feature Clydesdale rides, musical entertainment and Unstable Eats owned by Debbie Lewis will offer food and beverages — a Christmas tradition at Cottage Gardens, which starts Thanksgiving weekend and the following couple weekends, Roberts said.
"It's always been a great collaboration between everybody," Roberts said.
The Hermitage Board of Commissioners had previously passed a proclamation earlier this year recognizing Nov. 26 as Small Business Saturday and encouraged residents to shop locally.
According to the proclamation, the U.S. Small Business Administration said there are 32.5 million small businesses nationwide, which represent 99.7 percent of firms with paid employees, are responsible for 62 percent of net new jobs created since 1995, and employ 46.8 percent of employees in the private sector.
Duane Piccirilli, president of the board, credited city staff with trying to put "extra focus" on small businesses for Small Business Saturday.
Although this can be challenging due to the spread-out nature of Hermitage's businesses, Piccirilli said the online initiative was a "great" way of showcasing the city's businesses with the community.
"I hope people in the Valley support our small businesses, because in addition to helping the economy and the businesses, they'll find many unique shops in our city," Piccirilli said.
If successful, Gotch said city officials could bring the online initiative back for future Small Business Saturdays.