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Chester observes Small Business Saturday

More than 10 businesses participate

  • Shoppers view the items for sale at Vintage Market during Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25. The Chester Chamber of Commerce and River City Renewal, Inc., partnered together with city businesses to observe the holiday event.

    Shoppers view the items for sale at Vintage Market during Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25. The Chester Chamber of Commerce and River City Renewal, Inc., partnered together with city businesses to observe the holiday event.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

By Pete Spitler
updated: 11/27/2017 11:57 AM

More than 10 Chester businesses observed Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25, as shoppers took a day away from the national chains to check out local merchants.
Participating businesses included Keep Collective, Vintage Market, Studio Boutique, Magnolia Memories, Coffey's Creations, Rowold Hardware, Benson's Wine Bar, Neal and Sons, Color X-Pressions, Ronnie's Barber Shop and Treasured Memories.
Keep Collective was set up inside Coffey's Creations, which has expanded to a bigger location across the street from its original store in Chester's uptown block and specializes in custom embroidery and full-color shirt printing.
"It's the mom-and-pop shops," said Coffey's Creations owner Stacey Coffey of Small Business Saturday. "It's not going out to a big box store, you're helping dance payments and schooling and those types of things."
Mariah Bargman is an independent designer and sole proprietor of Keep Collective, which is a personalized, charm-based jewelry business.
"Basically, you pick a bracelet or a necklace and then you add charms and stuff that represent you," she said. "All the pieces are interchangeable, so as you add on to your collection, you can create a piece of jewelry to go with anything you have on."
Several of the participating business owners also gave their definition of "small business."
"Showing support for your town, trying to keep business in town instead of going to these big shops," said Lynette Mitchell, the sole proprietor of Studio Boutique, which specializes in women's boutique clothing. "When you shop small, I think you're helping a family.
"Where you go to these big stores and who's it really helping?"
According to a news release from Gov. Bruce Rauner's office, small businesses - defined as everything from sole proprietorships to companies employing up to 499 people - employ 46 percent of Illinois' private workforce.
Small businesses also comprise more than 98 percent of the state's total, according to the 2017 Illinois Small Business Profile produced by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"It's a lot of work, as you would imagine, with a small business in you sink or swim," said Marge Sanders, co-owner of Vintage Market. "Some of it's a learning curve, if you're new to the small business world, which I've been in corporate business all my life, so small business is new.
"For the most part, it's fun because I'm getting to reconnect with the community because I've been gone for a long time."
And it's that perception of corporate business that drives people looking for a more personable shopping experience to small businesses.
"When people come in here, they'll be like 'can you pick out an outfit for me?'" Mitchell said. "A lot of times, people don't know what to put together and they come in and they'll ask me and I'll put things out and they try them on and usually they buy because they like someone helping them pick an outfit out."
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Sean McCarthy said in a news release that small businesses are central not only to the state's economy but also to quality of life.
"From the local diner to the tech start-up, our lives are impacted daily by the work of entrepreneurs who are pursuing their dreams through small business," he said. "These talented Illinoisans deserve our support, not only on Small Business Saturday, but every day of the year."
Through its Small Business Development Centers, the DCEO offers support for entrepreneurs looking to start or enhance their endeavors.
Those seeking more information can visit and click "Entrepreneurs" to learn more.
"It's kinda hard doing a small business because you don't have a lot of capital, you don't have a lot of money to buy your product," said Bev Allison, of Magnolia Memories, which features clothing items and homemade jewelry. "So you have to make it in a month's time so you can go ahead and buy more of your product.
"Having a day like (Small Business Saturday), where people come in and really buy is wonderful. It really helps."
The day began with a light breakfast for business owners sponsored by Gilster Mary-Lee and served at Benson's Wine Bar.
Benson's also hosted a reception, sponsored by River City Renewal, Inc., Saturday evening for the owners to wind down and discuss the results of the day.
According to Chester Chamber of Commerce Vice President Gwendy Garner, American Express - which started the Small Business Saturday effort in 2010 - donated a box full of free promotional items for Chester's event.
Included were "shop small" tote bags, balloons and posters.
"I appreciate everybody in the town's business so much," Mitchell said. "I wouldn't be able to do what I love if it wasn't for all my great customers.
"I started out with two racks of clothes and this is what it's become, all because of my customers."

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