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Queens Chronicle

Support small businesses this Saturday

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Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:28 pm, Wed Nov 23, 2011.

It’s well-known that small mom-and-pop stores are the economic backbone of Queens. While you can’t dismiss the great economic benefits of big operations ranging from Citigroup, with its tower full of employees in Long Island City, to the airports and all the people who work in and around them, it’s the small businessman and woman who produce most of the jobs and commercial activity that keeps the borough moving.

Stores and offices, suppliers and manufacturers, contractors and consultants — they’re all interconnected, all key to our local economy and all still hurting. There have been many recent efforts made to boost local spending, usually by providing discounts to shoppers, promoted by groups ranging from the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Jamaica Business Improvement District to this newspaper and its advertisers.

Now the latest effort comes courtesy of American Express and merchant groups nationwide, including many here in Queens. It’s called Small Business Saturday, and it happens this weekend. This is the second year of the promotional effort, created to fit right between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Amex is offering discounts to shoppers who register their credit cards and then spend at least $25 at participating merchants. And many merchants are offering other specials to coincide with the promotion.

As Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, a vice president with American Express, says, small businesses “are the lifeblood of the economy. They’re a unique and vibrant part of the communities they are in. Consumers love to support local businesses. And we want to turn that support into sales.”

In Queens, many of those small businesses are participating. They’re identifiable by the “Shop small” stickers placed in their windows. Some have gone even further to promote the effort, like the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, which has given its members colorful posters to alert customers.

“It’s good for us because it gets people to buy things,” said Ingrid Broderick, a participant and the owner of Emily’s Sugar Rush, a candy store on Austin Street. “And it’s good for my customers because they get a refund.”

The city’s Department of Small Business Services is also working to promote the event.

Many of us are alarmed at the number of vacant storefronts on Queens’ commercial strips, and we should all do our part to prevent more merchants from going out of business. These are the people who don’t just sell merchandise but support our communities, sponsoring street fairs and concerts, Little League teams and school supply drives. They’re our neighbors, and the fewer of them there are, the more Queens loses the identity it has built over the years.

So please go out this Saturday and shop at your friendly neighborhood stores. It’s best if you made that your practice all year-round, but it’s this weekend when you can be a part of something greater just by shopping locally — and get some good discounts at the same time. As Maria Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, said, “People will be looking for bargains, and we have bargains.”

“It’s a day to celebrate everything we like about small business,” Fitzmaurice Reilly of American Express said.

Sounds like Small Business Saturday is a win-win situation. We hope you’ll be a part of it.

Welcome to the discussion.