Business owners stress importance of keeping dollars in community

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 21, 2012 

— While dozens of people line up at the big-box stores on Black Friday, many business owners are gearing up for Small Business Saturday -- an opportunity to shop local and support smaller operations.

"It's very important for people to shop local because all that money stays in the community," said Kathy Andrade, general manager of Merced Mall. "It keeps the sales tax dollars in town and benefits emergency services."

Born and raised in Merced, Keri Maciel, 39, is the owner of three businesses inside the Merced Mall -- Maciel & Co., Keri's Gold and Silver, and Treasured Ornaments, a seasonal kiosk that operates two months of the year.

Maciel, who has been in business more than 20 years, said she wants to get the word out about Small Business Saturday.

"As an owner, I'd like to know the reason they came to me is because of Small Business Saturday," Maciel said. "Without customers, the small businesses won't be here next year. And if you pay 50 cents more for a gift, that 50 cents goes so much further in the community."

Unlike the big-box stores, Maciel said, Merced's small businesses support local organizations, such as football and baseball teams.

"The big (retailers) are not the ones that support those clubs and organizations," Maciel said. "The more people invest in small businesses, the more we can invest in our community. Even if you're not going to shop at mom-and-pop shops, just buy local."

Maciel said her stores' holiday sales have been steady so far, with customers making smaller purchases and shopping consistently.

Peraino's Jewelers & Gift Emporium in Merced has experienced steady sales this holiday season, but it's gearing up for Small Business Saturday, too -- a day that the owners say is traditionally good for sales.

The family business inside the newly remodeled Bear Creek Galleria has been open for more than 29 years and sells jewelry, gifts and coins. The store's owners said their secret to running a successful small business during the holidays is providing a one-of-a-kind customer experience.

"We provide a different experience that people may not get in the big-box stores, and also carry unique things that you may not find in the big stores," said general manager Richard Peraino, 56. "It helps the local economy by supporting the local businesses and keeps the tax revenue local."

Christina Macha, 30, owner of Christina's Fine Clothing and Shoes Boutique at the Bear Creek Galleria, agrees that it comes down to customer service and supporting community programs.

"We support 95 percent of fund-raisers in Merced, which you never see a Nordstrom or Macy's doing," Macha said. "If you say you support the community, then you also have to support the businesses here in town to keep the shopping dollars local."

Although her shop's brands can be found at the big-box stores, she said that the one-on-one service cannot.

"A lot of time it comes down to customer service and a great experience," Macha said.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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