PANAMA CITY — Although Small Business Saturday does not necessarily stick to the maniacal Black Friday rhythm of slashed prices and deep discounts, local small businesses will look to the shopping holiday Saturday in hopes of creating a buzz about what's left when big-box retailers have ended their temporary markdowns.
And outdoors equipment company Sunjammers has found a unique way to create that buzz — by closing its doors on Black Friday.
"The customers that walk through your doors always want massive discounts" for Black Friday, said Brad Stephens, the owner. "As a small business, we can't afford that. So, we're spending time with our family."
The company, which has been in business for 20 years — spending six of those years at its current location, 1129 Beck Ave. in St. Andrews — has been closing its doors on Black Friday for about decade.
Many of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce’s small businesses look forward to the shopping holiday, according to Chamber President and CEO Carol Roberts.
"Small Business Saturday has been recognized for many years and we try to do our part in promoting our businesses," Roberts said. "We estimate 85% of our membership is made up of small businesses."
"They are the backbone ... not only of our community, but of the country," she added.
Roberts said that although there are businesses that are continuing to struggle to their feet in the wake of last year’s Hurricane Michael, "I'm pleased to see the magnitude of our recovery in the number of our businesses that have reopened."
Small business owners seem confident local shoppers will reflect on the past year and remember small businesses that were devastated and now are back operating.
When barely any retail east of the Hathaway Bridge was open at this time last year, Sunjammers actually participated in the Saturday business holiday.
"We did it last year," Stephens said. "We noticed because of the storm (customers) saw the benefit of small business. It was the business owners that helped to get the community back up."
Family-owned and local appliance store The Appliance Center, 135 Harrison Ave., was open just days after the storm when it "broke all records," said owner Bob Hurst, second-generation owner of the store that has been in business for 75 years.
"People are needing so many replacement appliances," Hurst said. "Business was (good) ... before the storm, ... then after the storm, it just got better."
Although it won't participate in Small Business Saturday, the company will be open for its regular business hours and run discounted sales throughout the end of the month.
Gulf Coast Aquarium, Inc., 469 Harrison Ave., will be open for both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Prices will be cut by up to 30% on both days.
"I'm familiar with the whole big-box Black Friday, but then again I want to be a part of Small Business (Saturday)," said owner Heath Kent, who retired from decades of retail management to incorporate Gulf Coast Aquarium, Inc. in 2013.
His goal was to offer something different in the quaint downtown area.
"I didn't want to be in a strip mall on Back Beach Road, I wanted to be here," he said, "and take a chance on a category that's not well-played in the area.
"I've dealt with some difficulties," he said. "We just hope, and are excited about all of the changes and want to be a part of it."