BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
Black Friday may be the official kickoff to holiday shopping, but it’s the next day that really makes the difference locally.
Small Business Saturday—launched by American Express in 2010 to encourage consumers to shop local small businesses and independent stores for holiday gift-giving—is this Saturday, November 27.
After a tumultuous year and a half caused by the pandemic, shopping local is more important than ever, according to Emma Davis-Donnay, owner of Essence on Main in downtown Clarkston.
“It’s about continuing to build the resilience of the community,” said Davis-Donnay, who purchased the business in June. “Keeping money in our community allows small businesses to put money back toward our schools and sports teams.”
Davis-Donnay’s parents opened Essence back in 2007.
For part of the year 2020, Davis-Donnay had to pivot entirely to pre-orders and backdoor pickups of goods and Essence’s prepared foods. Fortunately, this year, items are flying off her shelves this year, she boasted.
“That’s a true testament to the community,” she said. “They were here for us. These are the people who support us to help keep the community strong.”
Essence and other downtown Clarkston businesses plan to make this Saturday particularly festive. The Union General Boutique and Cupcakery is also hosting its annual holiday open house throughout the weekend.
As in previous years, city and the county government lend their support for Small Business Saturday. Clarkston City Manager Jonathan Smith said the city will waive parking fees in its city lot on November 27, as well as on December 11, the night of the city’s holiday parade.
“It’s one thing the city can do to help our local businesses,” said Smith. “We want to encourage our residents to patronize and support our businesses, not just on Small Business Saturday, but every day.”
Oakland County and Genisys Credit Union teamed up to supply Main Street Oakland County communities with shopping bags, community banners and posters promoting shopping local.
At an event earlier this month, Oakland County Executive David Coulter spoke on the importance of the upcoming Small Business Saturday.
“You can not only get great variety by shopping local, but you’re also supporting the local economy and the workers who are your neighbors, friends and family,” Coulter noted. “And your dollars are staying in the local economy when you shop in these small businesses that are the binding threads in the fabric of our communities.”
“As area downtowns are working to build back from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud to partner with Main Street Oakland County to help small businesses to build stronger local economies and communities,” added Genisys Credit Union CEO Jackie Buchanan.
Clarkston is one of the county’s 16 Main Street communities. Clarkston Collective acts as a liaison between Main Street Oakland County and Clarkston and is raising money to sponsor another free parking day to encourage shopping local.
“Our goal is to support the business community in ways like this and also by helping connect them with useful grants that become available through the county and elsewhere,” said Brandon Still, founder of Main Street MI Coworking and one of the directors of the Clarkston Collective.
“We really think that the good will, even just saying the $3 parking tab is on us, helps put people in the spirit. The retail and restaurants do a lot for all of the other businesses, so we want to be involved with something that positively contributes to them. It would be nice if people put another $2-3 on a tip or drop into an additional business while they’re in town because they aren’t worrying about the meter.”
Still hopes other organizations, businesses, or individuals will consider helping the Collective reach the final $200 of its $350 goal to sponsor a free parking day in Clarkston, or sponsor one of their own, adding the Collective will print signs acknowledging the day’s sponsor at the lot’s parking kiosk.
Anyone interested in donating to a free parking day or sponsoring a free parking day can contact Smith at Clarkston City Hall at 248-625-1559 or email Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– With files from Cara Catallo
PHOTO: Essence on Main owner Emma Davis-Donnay prepares for the holiday shopping season, which kicks off later this week. Photo provided