The spotlight shifted Saturday from Black Friday’s deal-seekers lining up at the city’s big box stores to the locally owned shops that have long lined the streets of downtown Lawrence.
Small Business Saturday, a nationwide effort to promote local shopping initiated by American Express in 2010, kicked off Saturday morning at the US Bank Plaza at Ninth and Massachusetts Streets. White and blue “Shop Small” stickers dotted the windows of businesses downtown, each seeking attention from visitors, among whom included a “cash mob” of shoppers pledging to spend at least $20 downtown.
Carolyn Richmond can talk about the challenges facing small businesses, having opened Fortuity, a retailer with a location at 809 Massachusetts St. (and another in Manhattan) three years ago after she and her oldest daughter, Ellie, then a Kansas University freshman, thought Massachusetts Street needed more retail options. Soon, Richmond said, she found Lawrence to be welcoming for a niche boutique.
“Lawrence is different because it pulls people in from surrounding areas,” Richmond said. “There’s always something going on in Lawrence, which makes our sales in December terrific.”
On Saturday, Fortuity also collected unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots in exchange for store gift cards. During the rest of the year, Richmond said, the store donates to area churches and charitable events. To Richmond, it’s an example of how a local shop can be better suited to returning money to its community. “I wish people were aware of this 365 days a year,” Richmond said. “Because really when you do shop local, the money stays in the community.”
If Richmond navigated unsteady waters when opening her stores during a recession, the ride for the 25-year-old Raven Bookstore, 6 E. Seventh St., has been no less turbulent. Recession notwithstanding, the 2010s have not been easy on booksellers. But as owner Heidi Raak prepared on Saturday for one of the store’s busiest seasons, she said she has come to count on the loyalty of both Lawrence and out-of-town shoppers.
“That’s how we survive is we have people who are loyal to us and we have visitors who come to town who value what we offer,” Raak said.
Aside from an influx of Kansas State fans in town for Saturday’s Sunflower Showdown, other out-of-town shoppers downtown included Dani Orrell and Kathy Brooks of Hume, Mo., a small town 90 miles southwest of Kansas City. Orrell, pushing her 8-month-old son, Ben, in a stroller, popped inside shops that caught her and Brooks’ eyes. Earlier that day, they visited the Bizarre Bazaar at the Lawrence Art Center and looked forward to a more personal means of shopping. “You’re putting money directly in the hands of the craftspeople,” Orrell said.
For her part, Brooks relished an opportunity to slow down while shopping. “You’re not rushed down here,” she said.
The holiday shopping surge is far from over. Richardson said Fortuity is now planning a Sunday sale, called Fortuity Sunday. That, of course, will precede Cyber Monday. Fortuity is gearing up for that, too, with a newly minted website run by Richardson’s newest employee: her recent KU graduate daughter, Ellie.