Small business owner and Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce president Becky Saban hopes the public will shop the city’s many small locally owned stores not only on Small Business Saturday but throughout the Christmas shopping season.

Started in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday is always the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It falls on Nov. 25 this year.

“It’s about creating an awareness of the importance of small businesses in our community,” said Bill Fleming, executive director of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce. “The small businesses are an important part of the local economy. They’re our friends and our neighbors, and they’re the businesses that help support a lot of events in our community.”

Both Fleming and Saban, who owns BodyWealth Massage, cited several advantages to the consumer by shopping small and local.

“Generally speaking, you can find better bargains, and you can sometimes find improved customer service because you are usually dealing with the owner,” Fleming said.

Saban said, “A lot of times these small businesses have things that are absolutely unique that you can’t get anywhere else.”

Both also noted that shopping in one’s own community keeps taxes local, which helps with city improvements.

“Shopping local keeps small businesses in the community, which adds to our quality of life,” Saban said. “In the years I’ve been with the Chamber, I’ve watched small businesses come and go because they didn’t have people coming in their doors. Everyone in a small town knows someone, either a neighbor family member or friend, that owns a small business, so we’re supporting our own people, and it gives you a good feeling to support your own people.”

While the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t track the success of Small Business Saturday, Fleming said about 80 percent of its members are considered small businesses with fewer than 20 employees. The U.S. Small Business Association defines a small business as a firm with fewer than 500 employees.

“Some people think it’s got to be that little mom and pop shop on the corner, but I think you can also fit locally owned franchises into that,” Fleming said. “Also, most people think you’re supposed to only go shopping in retail on Small Business Saturday, but while you’re out, you can stop for lunch.”

Most small businesses in downtown Pekin, on Derby Street and around town will be offering specials and some will offer refreshments and giveaways on Small Business Saturday.

Kountry Nook is one shop that will be offering free breakfast foods that day “to help jump start customers for their shopping season,” said owner Mary Haynes.

“People need to just stroll through their community and see what their community has to offer, and this is the time for the small businesses to really shine,” said Haynes, who’s been a small business owner since 1999. “People are often surprised by what it is right here in Pekin.”

Haynes is also working with six other small businesses to host Pekin’s 13th annual Christmas Extravaganza from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18. It will feature door prizes, specials and refreshments. Participants include the Kountry Nook, Vinyl Art Studio, idunnthat Photography & More, Peek In Pottery, Maurie’s, Classy Girl Boutique and the Stove Shop.

“We help each other out as small businesses,” Haynes said.  “We share our customers, and we promote each other and try to get people in our doors. The small business owners really appreciate the customers coming in. Just come in and chitchat and see what your community has to offer.”

Saban said the social interaction is one of her favorite things about Small Business Saturday.

“I think a lot of people don’t get enough social interaction these days,” she said. “Every time I go to something like that I run into people I know, and that kind of social interaction is good for us.”

For more information about Small Business Saturday, call 309-346-2106 or visit the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce's Facebook page or its website at www.pekinchamber.com.