Small retailers join forces to keep holiday shopping close to home

Whether people get their news and advertising in print or online, a tsunami of ads from media up the road might have tempted holiday shoppers to drive north to Soldotna and Anchorage or browse online. To keep gift buyers on the lower Kenai Peninsula for the big shopping weekend after Thanksgiving, local businesses campaigned to make Black Friday a homegrown affair — and stay in town for Small Business Saturday.

“The whole goal was to get people in all of the stores and see what is local before they headed up to road or to their computer to order,” said Sue Post, one of the partners in the Homer Bookstore with her brother, Lee Post, and friend, Jenny Stroyeck.

By all accounts, that idea worked. The Homer Bookstore was part of a group of nine new or longtime stores that participated in Shop and Share, a contest and fundraiser for the Homer Communiy Food Pantry and Share the Spirit. Shoppers could pick up cards at the Homer Bookstore, Homer Saw & Cycle, Sustainable Wares, Sea Glo, Timeless Toys, North Wind, the Classic Cook, Homer’s Jeans and Oodalolly. They would then go to each store, get the card stamped and at the last store visited, make a donation to the food pantry or Share the Spirit and enter the card for a $50 gift certificate to the participating stores. The drawing was held last Saturday night.

At the Nov. 23 Homer City Council Meeting, Homer Mayor Beth Wythe also proclaimed Nov. 28 Small Business Saturday, and urged “residents of our community, and communities across the country, to support small businesses and merchants on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.”

Arts and crafts vendors also participated in the annual Black Friday Fair last Friday and Saturday at the Kachemak Community Center.

Classic Cook owner Janie Buncak had the idea for Shop and Share. She envisioned the contest as a fun activity for people to do while shopping — and more.

“We want to give something back,” she said. “It isn’t about buying something. It’s about participating.”

Open just five months, The Classic Cook on Pioneer Avenue sells a wide variety of cookware and kitchen appliances. Along with Oodalolly, an eclectic gift shop next to Homer’s Jeans, and Sustainable Wares on Ocean Drive, it’s one of several new businesses started in the past 18 months. Shop and Share brought some new people into her store, said Homer Saw & Cycle owner Claire Waxman, but also inspired them to visit the new stores.

People also didn’t just browse, but bought.

“What we found, and we talked it over, at least 80 percent of the people did buy things,” Waxman said.

“Friday was quite busy. I felt like people stayed in town a bit this year,” Post said.

At Oodalolly, owner Bekah Dalke and clerk Lindsey Collins got into the holiday spirit and wore the latest trend of the season — ugly sweaters. Dalke had an outfit she found at the Salvation Army, complete with a glue-on cotton star, and Collins wore a grumpy cat sweater with glittery snowballs.

“I feel like a lot of people stayed in town and are shopping local,” Collins said.

“Our Black Friday is always so sweet — instead of driving up the road,” Dalke added.

That was the Homer Bookstore’s experience, Post said.

“It feels like people are definitely supporting local right now, and that feels really good,” she said.

At Classic Cook, Buncak said she was filling up holes on the shelves because things were selling.

“We had a great response,” she said. “Some people are shopping, not buying. Others are buying — nicely.”

At Sustainable Wares, which like Oodalolly opened in December of 2014, owner Karen West saw an improvement over her first holiday shopping season. She also saw a lot of new people at her store.

“They’re still people coming in who have never been in, which I was surprised by,” she said, with some saying they had been meaning to stop by but hadn’t had the chance.

Black Friday takes its name because for some retailers that’s the day when sales books go into the black — make a profit. It’s not the busiest shopping day, though.

“It seems like for Homer, the week of Christmas is the shopping time,” West said.

“It’s a boost for Christmas shopping. We’re not like Best Buy and Walmart and Target where people are breaking down the stores to get in there,” Waxman said.

That’s one nice thing about Black Friday in Homer, Waxman said: It’s more low-key, with employees able to take the Thanksgiving holiday off and not have to spend the night before setting up.

Waxman said she hopes Homer takes advantage of its crafters and artists and producers.

“There’s so much available in Homer,” she said. “Come see your locals who sell fish, vendors at the new Saturday market. See the merchants who are here all year and shop local.” 

Michael Armstrong can be reached at