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Kathy Castor to celebrate Small Business Saturday in Seminole Heights

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

With the increase in online shopping, manufactured shopping holidays like Black Friday have been losing its luster in recent years. However, there’s still Small Business Saturday to lure shoppers out of their homes.

“We want to encourage people to go out of their ways to support these businesses,” said U.S. Representative Kathy Castor earlier this week. “They are the ones that make our economy grow. They make our economy strong, and those dollars circulate right here in our own economy.”

The shopping day was first conceived of by American Express in 2009 in an effort to help small companies still mired in the recession, and its grown in popularity. In 2012, consumers spent an estimated $5.5 billion at small retailers on Small Business Saturday. By 2015, that amount nearly tripled to $16.2 billion, according to Fortune.

A 2012 study from the research firm Civic Economics found that local retailers return an average of 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy, compared with just 14 percent for chain retailers.

“When our neighbors spend their money in a small business locally owned, those dollars stay in the local area, as opposed to when you go to a big box retail store,” said Castor while standing inside Cleanse Apothecary in Seminole Heights earlier this week. The Congresswoman said that the neighborhood has seen several new businesses open in what used to strictly be an industrial type area in recent years.

“It’s just exploded in the past couple of years,” says David Hanson, co-owner of Urban Bungalow, a retail store and bath and body shop. Hanson says that his business has adapted to the wishes of the neighborhood in recent years, “and that’s part of our success.”

“Being a small business owner, it’s rewarding, it’s hard work, and you really have to love your community, and if you do they’ll love you back,” enthused Leigh Anne Balks, owner of The Disco Dolls, a women’s fashion and hair salon boutique.

“I think all of us can speak to that where were creating spaces where people can not only get their retail fix, and have a little bit of that retail therapy, but also involve themselves in their community and have conversations with the owner and have conversations with the owner and have that unique customer service experience that is totally unique to coming into an owner operated shop,” said Balks. “I get rewarded by my customers, by my community, and I’m able to support a lot of other small businesses with my small business.”

“I watched everybody else grow and we decided we gotta be here too,” says Benny Blanchard, speaking about his decision to locate his  recently opened Heights Cigar Bar in Seminole Heights.

Although problematic issues with businesses getting permitted in Seminole Heights have been legion over the years, none of the small business owners say they’ve had any problems with the city of Tampa since they’ve been in operation. However, Greg Curtis, the owner of Cleanse Apothecary, said he’d like it if Florida Avenue were to become more walkable.

“That’d be a great thing since we’re getting so dense now witih new businesses and seeing people walking in the evenings (and) riding their bikes, so having the core pedestrian friendly would be wonderful,” he says.

The merchants in Seminole Heights are also Small Business Saturday in conjunction with their annual Holiday Shop Hop, which will include 14 locally owned businesses offering sales and prizes.  Shoppers visiting at least six participating businesses and getting their “Shop Hop Passport” stamped will be eligible to win a Local Shopping Spree, which is the grand prize featuring gift certificates for local shops.  

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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