Myles Odermann

Hundreds of residents from around Connecticut flooded Chapel Street and the rest of Downtown New Haven on Saturday to support local businesses.

The Elm City hosted its seventh-annual Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26, just a day after one of the country’s busiest shopping days of the year: Black Friday. The daylong event featured free parking and promotions at local stores.

Small Business Saturday started nationwide in 2010, and though Black Friday still rules in sales for many, Small Business Saturday is becoming more than just a day of recognition. According to interviews with several business administrators, Small Business Saturday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season.

“It’s one of my favorite days of the year,” said Kimberly Pedrick, who owns the boutique Idiom, which held a promotion throughout the day.

Over the past few years, the number of people shopping during Small Business Saturday has increased, said Pedrick, who has owned her business for 11 years. The city, alongside the organizations Town Green District and The Shops at Yale, deserve much of the credit for the increase of shopper traffic, she said.

To promote Small Business Saturday, the Town Green District gave away tote bags and popcorn and reserved about 200 free two-hour parking spots for customers, Town Green District Marketing Director Lindsey Burke said. The Shops at Yale also offered four-hour parking with proof of a $25 minimum purchase from one of its associated stores. Additionally, The Shops at Yale hired the local company Ice Matters to sculpt the “Elm City Elf.”

The number of customers in New Haven fluctuated throughout the day, with people coming and leaving from the designated parking lots.

“We’ve had some slow moments,” Ten Thousand Villages Store Manager Shaamsuldhin Ashiq said during a rush hour at around 2:30 p.m. “But after I went and got some coffee, the store was full.”

Although Ten Thousand Villages is not a small business, but a national non-profit organization that makes millions in revenue by selling crafts made by disadvantaged artisans from 38 different countries, Ashiq said the store still saw an increase in business on the Saturday. In fact, he said Small Business Saturday was much busier than Black Friday.

For others, though the event brought more foot traffic than usual, sales remained steady.

Replay Shop, a consign and resale shop that takes in consignor’s items and showcases them for 60 days, had about the same amount of sales as usual days, manager Candace Rogers said around 2 p.m., though she anticipated a potential increase in sales later in the day.

The Aldo family, which was shopping at Replay Shop and travel from Southbury to New Haven multiple times a year, learned about the event online and decided to spend the day in the Elm City.

“I’m all about small business shopping,” Heather Aldo said.

Owning two small businesses herself, Aldo said it is nice to support the local community while shopping.