NORWALK — While it’s tempting to swing by the SoNo Collection for holiday shopping, officials are also encouraging Norwalk residents to consider small businesses when doing holiday shopping.
Director of Business Development and Tourism Sabrina Church said local businesses are able to advertise their services and upcoming holiday deals for free on Visit Norwalk, a city-funded publication andonline platform which replaced Norwalk Now. The city is also planning a virtual campaign where people will be entered to win prizes if they shop at small businesses.
Church added such free services has been a help to businesses in a time where finances are tight.
“It’s been rough for our small businesses,” Church said. “Not only do they employ our people, they are us. They’re part of our community. It’s part of our fabric. … Small Business Saturday is a great initiative day, but this is something we should be doing all year.”
Church recently shared the city’s plans for Small Business Saturday at a virtual roundtable with state and local officials including Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Mayor Harry Rilling and Chamber of Commerce President Brian Griffin.
Outside of Small Business Saturday, the city has also offered an expedited tent and heater permit process and is allowing longer-term permits for restaurants looking to offer outdoor dining throughout the winter.
“They’re afraid,” Rilling said of local small businesses. “They’re afraid more now than ever. They’re fearful of losing their business. People aren’t shopping and coming out. It’s critical we get the message out to our small busines community, our small business owners, that they’re the backbone of every community. This is so critically important, more so now than it’s ever been.”
Small businesses, especially restaurants, have been struggling since the state decided to scale back to Phase 2.1 of reopening, which means restaurants must close by 10 p.m. and capacity limits are reduced. The health and police departments said they plan to have enhanced enforcement and spot checks of local businesses throughout the week to make sure they’re following these guidelines.
Troupe429, which began selling records earlier this year, had to cut back their hours due to the reopening rollback. So on Saturday, it will offer its own Small Business Saturday special and will be open for extended hours from noon to 10 p.m., selling holiday records on top of new and rare vinyls. The bar/record store is also offering karaoke beginning at 5 p.m., a food truck and cocktails.
Christie’s Quilting Boutique, a quilt boutique on Main Street, is offering 20 percent off everything on Saturday when it’s open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Owner Christie Hughes said she hopes this will help bring in some sales as she faces a long winter.
“I’m thinking January and February are going to be very difficult months for all small businesses,” she said.
Some of Norwalk’s state representatives also joined the conversation, including Stephanie Thomas, state representative-elect for the 143rd House District. Thomas, who represents Westport, Wilton and Norwalk, runs a small consulting business.
“When it comes to small businesses, they are us,” she said. “It’s the person working out next to you at the gym. When I talk to people in the community, there’s usually one degree of separation from a small business owner.”
Thomas also encouraged residents to consider small businesses beyond just typical holiday shopping.
“It’s easy to think about retail outlets and restaurants, but I encourage everyone to think about all small business owners who exist,” she said.