Eric Wang

While Yalies were still away on Thanksgiving break, ice sculpture demonstrations and Christmas carolers lined downtown New Haven on Saturday as business owners encouraged consumers to find holiday gifts in their shops.

Small Business Saturday, which started as an American Express advertising initiative, encourages cities and residents across the country to support local businesses the day after Black Friday. The nationwide project aims to help shift consumer shopping habits during the holiday season. To accommodate the occasion, store owners around the Elm City provided special discounts, and the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and the Town Green District offered parking incentives and advertised the event to the community. The Shops at Yale offered ice carving demonstrations and carolers on Broadway and Chapel Streets

“I think it has been pretty busy, which is awesome,” said Cy Eury, a shopper and Elm City resident, in an interview with the News. “I’ve been to small businesses in the past when it is not very busy, which is kind of sad. This event has changed that.”

According to a 2017 article in the New Haven Independent, current Town Green District Executive Director Win Davis said at a press conference last year that 73 percent of businesses downtown are locally owned and operated. He added that locally owned businesses often put more money back into the city by hiring local employees, by using local banks and obtaining supplies from other local businesses.

Davis said that 60 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the community, compared to four cents of every dollar spent in a “big box store,” according to the Independent.

Wave Gallery, a luxury gift shop on Chapel Street, offered discounts on the Alex and Ani jewelry collection as well as its candles, and the store also gave hourly flash sales on different products throughout the day. Other businesses offered similar sales, and representatives from The Shops at Yale also gave $10 gift cards and free tote bags to people on the street with bags from their stores.

In addition to deals at individual stores, Town Green Special Services offered two-hour complimentary parking at certain spots downtown with Town Green meter bags. The Shops at Yale is also providing four-hour free parking for consumers who spend $25 or more at one of their stores between Black Friday and Christmas Eve.

“It has been a great crowd all day,” said an employee at Wave Gallery, who requested to remain anonymous because he is not the owner. “There are a lot of people from out of town and new customers, which is always encouraging.”

Employees at Atticus Bookstore Cafe said that the rush of shoppers seemed normal for a weekend over the holiday season, and there didn’t appear to be a higher volume of customers on Saturday. The bookstore did not offer any special deals for the event.

Local fashion boutique Neville Wisdom was filled with pamphlets and window decorations which read #ShopSmall — a popular hashtag used to promote small businesses. The city provided these free marketing materials through American Express, which continues to offer holiday-themed materials and event planning resources to businesses and community organizations on their website.

The House Democrats of Connecticut also supported efforts on Small Business Saturday and advertised similar events happening in cities across Connecticut, including Hartford, Glastonbury, Fairfield, Madison and Kent on their website.

“These businesses make up the backbone of our economy,” Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford said in a statement on Nov. 16. “By supporting local, independently-owned small businesses, we’re helping to create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country.”

Although Small Business Saturday was officially on Nov. 24, holiday events at The Shops at Yale will continue throughout the season, with carolers every Saturday and carriage rides on the weekends. According to The Shops at Yale website, there will also be weekly craft events on Saturdays at Hull’s Art Supply and Framing and on Sundays at the Yale Bookstore, as well as “Storytelling with Santa” at multiple downtown locations, including Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea, the Yale Bookstore and Claire’s Corner Copia.

Small Business Saturday began nationwide in 2010.

Carolyn Sacco |