With deals, sales and snacks, Small Business Saturday and the Downtown Holiday Open House cast a spotlight on its locally-owned retailers in Garden City on Saturday.

Different shops offered storewide or certain product discounts, some offering refreshments for the district’s open house. The morning crowd was light on the streets but busy in the shops, with customers sliding into stores, many with no set plan other than spending time with loved ones and supporting local businesses.

“Wherever we see ‘open,’ we go in,” Ariel Stoppkotte said while shopping in The Corner on Main.

Traffic varied depending on the business. Employees at Little Britches/Moodz said the numbers were better than Black Friday, while those at Kep’s Menswear and Klaus Wood Pellets said the opposite.

At the end of the day, residents gathered in Stevens Park to get pictures with Santa and light up the trees for the holiday season. But beforehand, they walked along city blocks of businesses owned by their friends, family and neighbors and cast them their support.

Some downtown businesses are rooted in local history. The Corner on Main, a fixture on Main Street for 22 years, is co-run by third-generation owner Andrea Kirchoff. The 40-year-old Coleen’s Trophies, Awards & Gifts is run by Sonya Roth, daughter to the store’s namesake. Sports shop The Good Sport has served patrons on Main Street for 40 years, and Regan Jewelers for 84.

In a town that has developed as a commercial hub for the region, small stores meet subsections of customers’ needs maybe missed by corporate chains, and in a way that lets them more directly support the local economy, said Liz Sosa, co-owner of The Corner on Main with Kirchoff and Haleigh Kells.

“When people come to Garden City, they’re looking for all different experiences, so they’re looking for … what we would consider the big box and then the smaller businesses that are typically going to be more specialty shops,” Sosa said. “I think there’s room for everyone, and there’s also the ability for everyone to kind of meet the needs of customers, regardless of what it is that they’re looking for.”

Local businesses are reliable, said Darcy Reece, marketing and event coordinator for Downtown Vision, because they are built on a foundation of familiarity and community support. Garden City is small enough that “everybody knows at least somebody,” she said, and small businesses run by local families, sometimes for years and years, foster a “homey” feel to the area. She said they gave the town a family atmosphere.”

Linda Finch and Darinda Gerber, who have patronized the downtown stores for 20 years, echoed the idea, saying downtown shops gave off a “hometown atmosphere” built on connections, friendliness and customer service.

“They support everything in this community. Every local business is hit up for every auction, any special event, every day, everything, you name it. If they support our community, we should support them,” Gerber said.

Among Saturday’s sales was Garden City Arts, which offered original work from local artists at discount prices and an opportunity to meet with some of the artists. One shopper, Carole Geier, came in part to support some of the artists that she knew well.

“It’s very gratifying to support people that you actually know, and that’s the same way with all the small businesses downtown. We know these people and it’s really nice to start here,” Geier said.

When shoppers support local business, they support people living, working and spending money in their communities, store owners said, and it often extends to the business side.

Brian Rupp, owner of The Good Sport, and Mollianne Koster, sales associate and daughter of owner Dana Miller at Elements, said money spent at local businesses is often poured back into the local economy more directly than money spent at larger chains.

Besides that, local businesses often give back monetarily to the community, sponsoring or donating to local organizations or events, store owners said. The Corner on Main recently donated auction items to a fundraiser for Russell Child Development Center. The Good Sport provides printed shirts for local schools and sponsors nearby sports teams. Coleen’s reaches out to schools and nonprofits, owners said.

And the contributions stretch beyond money, said Deb Olyer, president of the Downtown Vision Board of Directors. Small business owners serve on local boards or volunteer at schools or nonprofits, becoming “a visible part of our community,” she said.

“People … don’t really know what the things were like 30 years ago,” Rupp said. “The vast majority of your shopping was these locally-owned merchants, and they’ve done a lot for the community over the years. If it weren’t for them, the big boxes wouldn’t have come. You got to realize what really was the driving force for this community over the last 30 or 40 years…”

Downtown is home to the new, as well as the decades-old, including organic, handmade bath accessory shop SageHouse Soaps, chic clothing resale store the Tumbleweed Thrift Boutique, grill specialty store Klaus Wood Pellets and bistro meets gourmet restaurant Phil's Grill, all new to the neighborhood this year. Elements, an upscale men's and women’s clothing store, is nearing its first anniversary.

Bank Shot Billiards and The Embroidery Shop, which also sit on Main Street, are in their third year, along with mainstays like Stage or B&J’s Collectibles.

And Garden City’s locally-owned businesses stretch far past downtown, from Ward’s Garden Center and Cafe, a 43-year-old pet and garden shop owned by the daughter of its founder, to Garnand Fine Furniture, family run and owned for over 100 years, to restaurants in all corners of town.

All of them bring a variety and versatility to their work and to Garden City, Olyer said. They remember and cater to their customers with a personal touch and add a “little bit of local flavor to the community” that made it unique.

Store owners agreed.

“If you want to have a variety of interesting and different places to shop, that’s pretty much the only way you’re going to get it,” said Shawnna Hageman, owner of the Tumbleweed Thrift Boutique. “If you don’t patronize these businesses, they won’t be able to stay open.”


Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.