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Local businesses hope to lure shoppers on Small Business Saturday

Owners Maysaa, left, and Sam Cateby get Ambiance, a home decor and more store in St. John, ready for the holidays. 

Tony V. Martin, The Times

Crowds swarm the malls and big-box stores on Black Friday and — increasingly — on the Thanksgiving holiday, but the mom-and-pop shops and small local businesses hope their neighbors also will keep them in mind for their holiday shopping.

Merchants across Northwest Indiana will celebrate Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday the credit card company American Express started in 2010 as a more community-focused alternative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Many offer discounts, sales, freebies and other incentives to draw people in.

It's Just Serendipity in Hammond for instance will give out a vintage or new gift to anyone who spends $20. Purely Vapor Schererville is offering the chance to win a $100 gift card.

One survey found about 75 percent of shoppers now head to at least one local store or restaurant on that day, according to an American Express news release.

It's Just Serendipity owner Karen Maravilla encouraged people to spend money at local businesses in their community.

"If you say that shopping online is more convenient or that it saves money, think again," she said. "It is robbing our communities of jobs, economic development, income and much more. The impact of shopping online has a far-reaching effect and is hurting our local economies. Occasionally, one cannot find what one needs at a local store, so buying online is an alternative. On a day-to-day basis, please make the choice to support small and local businesses in Northwest Indiana."

A sampling to choose from

More than 20 businesses will participate in Small Business Saturday in downtown Hobart from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can get a map of participating stores, a rundown of special promotions, a passport and free tote bags at a welcome station at the Hobart Art Theatre at 230 Main St., which will screen "It's a Wonderful Life" for free all day.

Those who get five stamps on their passport can win prizes from participating businesses such as Toys in the Attic, Games Inn, Like New Home Furnishings and Locked In NWI Escape Room.

And anyone who brings a nonperishable food item to donate to the Hobart Food Pantry also can get a photo of Santa at the historic movie theater from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. at no cost.

The Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce in Crown Point and Merrillville is sponsoring a local Small Business Saturday with a "Shop Small Passport" that makes shoppers eligible for prizes when they make purchases from three or more businesses. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, the passports will be handed out at Crown Point's Santa Parade, at the Winter Market in the Old Courthouse's Maki Ballroom and at all participating businesses.

Around 20 will participate, including Geppetto's Toys and Togs, Camille's Antiques, Chemshaw 13 Donutz & Comics and Toys in the Attic.

The Highland/Griffith Chamber of Commerce also has been promoting Small Business Saturday, encouraging shoppers to visit merchants like Region Records, S&J Stereo, Charcuterie and Miles Books. The Shererville Indiana Chamber of Commerce has been touting promotions at Tri-Town merchants like Designer Desserts and Eco Chic Boutique, which has six days of deals this week, including 20 percent off Saturday.

Running Vines Winery at 119 S. Calumet Road invites shoppers to downtown Chesterton from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, when it will offer hot chocolate for kids, mulled wines for adults and holiday wine specials.

Maravilla said it would be good if people observed the spirit of Small Business Saturday year-round. She estimates at least 15 small businesses in Northwest Indiana have closed between Whiting and Valparaiso over the last year and a half.

"Small businesses make your town vibrant and interesting. Spending money has a domino effect," Maravilla said. "If you spend it all online, it goes who knows where and somebody could be losing their jobs. Small businesses have the knowledge to provide unique goods to customers but also volunteer, give back to their communities and are so much more than just brick-and-mortar."

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.