This year, Small Business Saturday is more than just a hashtag for local businesses in Salem.
It’s a celebration of another year of surviving the economic downturn, connecting to the community and giving back.
American Express founded the Small Business Saturday shopping day in 2010 — a quieter, locally-based antithesis to the corporate spend-fest of Black Friday.
Millions have supported the holiday in years past by buying their holiday gifts from small businesses and dining out in local restaurants.
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Last year, Small Business Saturday coincided with the two-week freeze in Oregon placed to stem the rise in COVID-19 cases. Restaurants were limited to delivery and take-out only, and retail stores were given capacity limits and still required to enforce mask mandates and distancing measures.
This year, businesses are cautiously returning to more events and celebrations.
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Longtime business marks 30th year
The Arbor gift shop on 367 State St. is celebrating its 30th year in downtown Salem.
The store sells wine made from grapes at Miller’s local La Chouette vineyard and olive oil made from olives grown at Redding’s grove outside Salem. They also sell Christmas ornaments, decorations, gift baskets, and bath and body items.
It opened in 1991 as a cafe and gift shop. Marni Redding and Michelle Miller took over ownership in 2019 and the previous owners retired. Redding said she had long thought about opening a shop but waited until her children grew up before committing to the business.
Months after taking over, the pandemic swept through Oregon. Redding and Miller closed The Arbor for several months.
“It was sad because we just had gotten our gift shop kind of where we wanted it to be,” Redding said. “I’d come in and water my plants and just sit in the shop and think, ‘Oh, it’s like I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go’.”
They offered curbside pick-up, stayed in touch with customers and weathered the worst of the lockdown.
“We feel like Salem is really supporting small businesses and we’re doing really well,” Redding said.
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They are now heading into the holiday season with fully-stocked shelves. Redding said she was able to overcome current supply-chain issues because she proactively stocked up on items in January.
Redding said they wanted to mark the 30th anniversary with a celebration but shied away from having a big party in light of the pandemic.
Instead, they are marking the Thanksgiving shopping weekend and Small Business Saturday by offering festive decorations like bottle brush trees and colorful ball ornaments and entering customers into a raffle for a gift basket stocked full of goods sold at the store.
A bustling shopping season is expected for the downtown core.
Redding said she loves the sense of community amongst downtown shops and restaurants.
“I feel like we all have just banded together, and it’s just a great group of businesses down here,” she said.
Toys, screenprinting and activism
After years of operating an online apparel company, Bee Decker decided to open a retail store featuring her screenprinting work when she moved to Salem.
She worked out the basement of the Salem Arts building until a spot at 105 Liberty St. NE opened up in 2019.
Her business, The Freckled Bee, was also forced to reckon with pandemic closures shortly after opening.
“We closed completely, and it was pretty rough because we had just started,” Decker said. “We’re still trying to recover a bit from that.”
She pivoted to curbside service, FaceTime shopping trips and online sales during the closures.
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Decker also connected with community activism. She collects food donations at the store for the Free Fridge Salem community pantries.
Decker supports LGBTQ+ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, highlighting inequities and is pro-vaccine. Her stances are frequently reflected in the merchandise offered at the store.
A recent item posted depicts a mug reading “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Proud Boys.”
Decker said many in the community have been supportive of the messaging, but she gets threatening voicemails at 3 a.m. and has had her vehicle vandalized by those she believes are upset over her anti-racism, inclusive stances.
“Anyone that that feels uncomfortable with it, they don’t have to come in,” she said. “I figure … people who feel that racism is okay — I’d rather make them uncomfortable than anyone else.”
The store offers a wide selection of toys, adult and children’s clothing and custom screenprinting and engraving services. Decker said one of their most popular services, especially for holiday gifts, is custom engraving.
Customers can bring in designs — doodles, drawings by their kids or phrases — and have them engraved on a cup while they wait.
The store will be running a buy-three-get-one-free special on custom cups the weekend after Thanksgiving and is having a 10% of sale on all Melissa & Doug wooden toys for those hoping to stock up for the holidays.
Decker also launched a toy drive for children in need. Customers can bring in a new, unwrapped toy or purchase a store toy for the donation box.
Find local businesses to support
Looking for more local businesses to support? The Salem Main Street Association has a downtown dining, shopping and parking map.
Travel Salem has online guides of where to eat, drink and shop in the Mid-Willamette Valley.
American Express keeps a map of small businesses across the country, including dozens in Salem.
The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce also keeps a business directory broken down by category.