BENNINGTON>> Not long after the holiday of stuffed bellies follows three days of shopping on all levels of retail. The day after Thanksgiving is big box stores Black Friday, proceeded by Small Business Saturday, or Bennington's "Our Hometown Holiday." Then, give the wallet a rest on Sunday to later virtually shop on Cyber Monday.

For some businesses, like Hawkins House Crafts Market, this may only be their second year participating in "Our Hometown Holiday."

"I think it has made a difference in the community," Deb Hathaway, store manager said. "It has brought more people out and put small businesses to the forefront of people's minds. Saturday we'll be crazy busy."

"Our Hometown Holiday," hosted by Better Bennington Corporation (BBC), is Bennington's day to strengthen ties in the community along with strolling carolers from the Bennington Choral Society, decorated streets, free gift wrapping and hot chocolate at Putnam Square, live performances, store activities and the Bennington Farmers' Market.

Those downtown on Nov. 28 can get a "Shop Small" tote bag and button from participating retailers.

American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010 to celebrate America's independent businesses. Users of the American Express reward program receive credit when the card is used on that day, according to their website.


Five businesses in the area that appear on American Express' small business finder include Downtown Lost & Found (435 Main Street), Knapp's Toys, Hobbies and Music (417 Main Street), Green Mountain Hydroponic Garden Supply (106 North Street), Hawkins House Craftsmarket (262 North Street), and Brown Computer Solutions (116 Benmont Avenue).

A small business can constitute as 500 employees or $7.5 million in average annual receipts, set by the Small Business Act. Currently, there are 23 million small businesses in the U.S., and 54 percent of the country's sales occur at them, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Looking ahead to local deals, Jay's Art Shop and Frame Gallery (115 South Street) will have 25 percent off the entire store, as well as Evans' News (434 Main Street) for the same discount off all Melissa & Doug Products. Bennington Library will have a Holiday Art & Craft Show & Sale from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31.

Despite Black Friday's boisterous deals, $42.6 billion would be generated if $50 each month was spent in locally owned independent businesses, according to the 3/50 project founded by Cinda Baxter in 2009. Stretching further, when $100 is spent, $68 is returned to the community via taxes, payroll and expenditures. Now, 3/50 has a free iPhone only app called LookLocal that helps consumers locate nearby mom and pop treasures.

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The birth of Small Business Saturday: