Small Business Saturdays, Giving Tuesday, and a wealth of holiday fun planned for the Thumb Coast

When speaking with Cynthia Cutright, you get the impression that if she had things her way, everyday would be Small Business Saturday. And to her, it is. As director for Port Huron’s Downtown Development Authority, that’s part of her job, keeping downtown’s small business community in the hearts and minds of neighbors near and far.

A nationally-recognized shopping “holiday” that occurs the Saturday following Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday began several years ago now, created as a reaction to the Black Friday shopping craze that sweeps through the nation’s big box stores each year. The intent, as it goes, is to get people back to shopping at their locally-owned mom-and-pop stores, stores which were often overshadowed by headline-generating crowds of people fighting over discount televisions at the large corporate chains. Small businesses across the country now offer their own Small Business Saturday specials and discounts in hopes of drawing customers into their shops.

It was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic this time last year and so, in an effort to further support the downtown business community, Small Business Saturday 2020 became Small Business Saturdays in downtown Port Huron. It was so successful, Cutright says, that once again, there will be multiple Small Business Saturdays throughout the month of December this year, too.

“There was lots of focus on helping our small businesses last year with the pandemic, but they’re still here and they still need our support,” she says.

Cutright has created a Facebook page to highlight the many sales, specials, and events occurring throughout downtown Port Huron this holiday shopping season. And downtown’s shops are getting creative in their attempts to draw people into their stores. On Saturday, Nov. 27, the first 25 customers at MI Passion Boutique will receive scratch-off tickets with their purchase; Elite Feet Running Store plans to hand out free pairs of Goodr sunglasses with a purchase of $150 or more; and Ruboo Boutique has a “money gun,” which shoots dollar bills at eligible customers, translating to further discounts.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

“If you want your gifts to have that personal touch, you need to be shopping local,” Cutright says. “Anything you want online or at a big box store, you can find it downtown and with that personal touch.”

Events abound

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season and there are no shortage of events happening now and through the New Year. Thanksgiving itself marked the official beginning of the Festival of Trees and, for the first time ever, participating downtown Port Huron businesses will be displaying the Christmas Trees in their storefront windows.

Sperry’s Santa Claus Parade begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26, starting at Bard Street, traveling south down Military, and ending at Water Street, where Santa will help light the Christmas Tree at the plaza there. And Candlelight Tours of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse also begin this weekend, with the Port Huron Museums organization offering tickets each weekend through the New Year.

Find Pixie the Elf and take a selfie with her for a chance to win a $100 gift card. (Photo: Facebook)One unique partnership is taking the “elf off the shelf” this Thanksgiving weekend, offering children the chance to meet Pixie the Elf live and in person. The Blue Water Area Convention & Visitors Bureau partners with the United Way of St. Clair County on the program, encouraging families to find Pixie, take a selfie with her, and post it to social media for a chance to win a $100 gift card. Children are also encouraged to bring their Christmas lists for Pixie to hand deliver them to Santa Claus.

Pixie, played by United Way employee Lisa Motte, can be found at participating businesses throughout the Blue Water Area, the schedule of which can be found online. For Katie Stepp, marketing manager for the Blue Water visitors bureau, the Elf Off the Shelf promotion is another great way to get people out and enjoying the area’s many locally-owned businesses.

“It’s something fun and festive for the season. Maybe they’ve never visited these great small businesses before and maybe they’ll visit other places nearby, too,” says Stepp. “When you’re in a great place like downtown Marine City, how can you see all of these great businesses and not want to stop by.”

Giving Tuesday, too

While Small Business Saturday developed as a way to support our locally-owned stores, another way to help our neighbors has also become quite popular recently: Giving Tuesday. Occurring the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday is, as described on the official website, “a global movement that reimagines a world built upon shared humanity and radical generosity.”

Giving Tuesday events large and small are occurring in the Blue Water Area this year. Some, like the Port Huron Museum’s eight-hour fundraising telethon, are big in scope and size. The museum will be broadcasting eight hours of live entertainment on their Facebook page, in hopes of raising money for museum upgrades. The first telethon occurred last year, a way for the museum to stay open at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It proved so popular that it looks as though it could become an annual event.

Other Giving Tuesday fundraisers are being started by individuals. Cathy Coffey Ingles, a part-time employee of the St. Clair Art Association, has started a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization, hoping to raise $1,000 to put toward its annual art fair next June. A Facebook promotion will match the $1,000 raised.

“Due to COVID-19, our sales at our art gallery have been down. COVID-19 has really affected our revenue and we need to keep going,” she says. “We’re a small nonprofit that supports art in the community. Many local artists sell their work here.”

Whether it’s Shop Small Saturday or Saturdays, Giving Tuesday or otherwise, the holiday season is in full effect in the Blue Water Area.

“When I think about heading downtown, I think about the experience. It’s a true shopping experience,” Cynthia Cutright says. “Instead of crowded big box stores, you can shop downtown with a cup of coffee or social district drink in your hand. You can end up spending hours walking around under the Christmas lights, the garland wrapped around the lampposts.”