Small Business Saturday keeps shopping at Tri-City merchants

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldNovember 22, 2012 

Nico Van Hoy can help you find the right toy at the downtown Kennewick store that bears his name.

The 8-year-old is likely to recommend one of his favorites -- such as a handheld game where levers make a little ball fly -- at Nico & Lily Toys.

Stacy Harbour-Van Hoy, Nico's mother and the store's owner, says offering toys made by small businesses like hers means Tri-Citians can find unique options at her store.

Downtown Kennewick business owners like Harbour-Van Hoy and the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce are encouraging Tri-Citians to consider going beyond the big box stores that are popular shopping destinations on Black Friday.

Instead, they are celebrating Small Business Saturday, a relatively new tradition that emphasizes the importance of supporting small businesses and through them, the local economy. American Express started the holiday three years ago to encourage people to remember small businesses on one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.

At small businesses, Harbour-Van Hoy said customers get a chance to meet the person making the buying decision.

About 90 percent of the toys she carries are made in the United States, and she researches all of their safety, she said. The rest are made in Europe, where toys have to meet higher safety standards than the U.S.

And her children Nico and Lily, 4, and their friends test the toys, which helps her decide what to carry. Lily's favorite right now is art supplies, Harbour-Van Hoy said.

Harbour-Van Hoy said her goal is to offer fun, high-quality toys that will last. For example, wood toys she carries are colored using water-based stains instead of paint. That way, it looks nice and doesn't have the possibility of chipping paint.

Most toys tend to be in the $20 to $30 range, but she carries everything from $2 stocking stuffers to the more expensive toys.

Like Nico & Lily Toys, JD's Time Center in downtown Kennewick also tries to carry American-made gifts as much as possible, said Merrianne Door, co-owner with her husband, Jim.

They carry clocks, watches and a wide variety of gifts that include games, Christmas figurines, Chukar Cherries, jewelry, lotions and soaps, she said.

Door said she hasn't seen a huge change yet since Small Business Saturday is so new. But she's hopeful that more Tri-Citians will decide to support the special day.

Jens Lee, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce marketing and communications director, said he encourages people to shop small businesses because the money spent there is circulated back into the community.

"That small business is the backbone for our region," he said.

Some of the small businesses he recommends include A-1 Shoes in Kennewick and Kennewick's Sporthaus, which carries gear for snowboarding and skiing.

And those looking for gifts for a hunter in the family should consider the Burbank Goose Club, he said. Its handmade goose and duck decoys are high quality.

At Golf Universe in Kennewick, employees can help people find the right gift for a golfer. Lionel Kunka, general manager, said they can even fit clubs without the golfer being there and be right most of the time, as long as the customer knows the approximate height of the golfer.

Among the popular gifts are collegiate head covers for clubs, towels, tees and ball markers. Kunka said they also can order golf balls with a logo or nickname on them, but those orders need to be placed soon to arrive in time for Christmas.

They also carry range finders and GPS units that can tell a golfer how far away the front, back or middle of the green is. Prices start at around $149 for the GPS watch units, and go up to about $499, he said.

Those looking for food-related gifts need to look no farther than Country Mercantile north of Pasco.

Manager Monique Kaas said it is known for their gift baskets, which can be custom made.

It also makes its own hand-dipped chocolates, sold for $14.95 a pound, and kettle candy such as chocolate-covered nuts and cherries, which are $9.95 a pound, she said.

Country Mercantile also started making its own signature jams, Kaas said. Flavors include the traditional strawberry and peach, along with blueberry kiwi and peach cinnamon.

And wine made north of Pasco at Claar Cellars is available at the winery's Zillah tasting room. Crista Whitelatch, co-owner, said her personal favorite is the riesling.

"It very much a Germanic flavor," she said. "It is a little bit sweet, but it is very fruity."

The riesling also is well-balanced and goes with so many different meals, she said.

The Sangiovese ros wine, called Busty Blush is something both white and red wine drinkers seem to enjoy, Whitelatch said. And $1 from each bottle is donated to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Claar offers many of the major varietal wines, including cabernet, merlot and syrah, which recently received the best-of-class award from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bottles range in price from about $12 to $25, Whitelatch said. Tasting room staff can answer questions customers may have, and Claar also carris wine-related gifts.

As part of Small Business Saturday, American Express cardholders can qualify for a $25 credit on their statement if they enroll their credit card in the program and shop at qualifying small businesses. There is a limit to the number of people who can enroll.

For more information or to enroll and American Express card in the Small Business Saturday program, go to www.ShopSmall.com.

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