IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) – From big retailers promoting holiday sales to smaller mom-and-pop shops, Saturday was “Small Business Saturday” across the country – a shopping holiday not only for making money, but also for growing local economies.
“I told her it’s worth the drive for the service,” Roger Manley told the owner of the shoe store as the owner fitted his wife’s feet into her new shoes.
Roger and his wife Connie drove to Ironton from Meigs County, impressed by the service Roger received at Unger’s Shoes.
“The way they check your feet and the way they size you, and I'm just very impressed with the whole store,” Connie Manley said. “We've never been fitted before like we have here. Never taken the time to measure your foot and to make sure the shoes are comfortable.”
Joe Unger, the owner of Unger’s Shoes, said they have been doing things the same way for 76 years at his store.
"A small business, because their heart is in it, is going to always give that extra level of service,” Unger said. “A small business person will go the extra mile."
Unger’s Shoes was among the 33 businesses in Ironton that took part in Small Business Saturday – a chance to show appreciation for their customers and bring in new ones with a discount or coupon.
Behind the push in Ironton is Jon Ferguson, a small business owner himself. Ferguson spends part of his time running a janitorial service and the rest heading up Ironton aLive, a nonprofit trying to revitalize downtown Ironton and grow its economy.
“I can remember coming down to Ironton as a kid, and the building beside us was the J.C. Penney building,” Ferguson said. “The large conglomerate stores have kind of changed that for people [and] this organization is kind of working toward moving us back into that small business mindset.”
He added, “The money that you spend in your small business goes right back to your community and that's an important message for everybody.”
Rowena Mollett owns Downtown Emporium and a music shop in Ironton and said she often hears people complain that it’s difficult to find parking downtown, and that bigger stores have parking lots.
“You would probably walk as far to get to the front door and inside as if you would walk a block or two here,” Mollett said.
Mollett hopes her neighbors will shop local to keep money in the community.
“We're just mom-and-pop businesses trying to add to what's available in downtown. We want our downtown to grow and to thrive,” Mollett said. “If we don't support the businesses here, we can't get other businesses to come, so it's like a chain effect.”
This was the first year Ironton aLive participated in Small Business Saturday. It has been going on nationwide since 2010.
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin urged neighbors to get out and support Small Business Saturday, saying small businesses play a vital role in the state.
According to the West Virginia Development Office, small businesses represent 96 percent of all employers in West Virginia.