Supply chain is not a big deal on Small Business Saturdays


With the holiday shopping season here, many small business owners say that while they are not immune to concerns about supply chain issues and the difficulty in finding workers, those concerns are, like their businesses, small.

And they’re hoping that some of the concerns these shoppers have might actually make customers buy more locally, where they can physically pick up their items in person and bring them home, rather than depending on online retailers and the whims of chain stores. international sourcing and shipping.

At the Alan Claude Gallery in downtown Gardiner, holiday shoppers can even purchase a copy from the graphic designer himself, or his wife Erin Claude, or one of their two employees.

Erin Claude worked at the Water Street Art Gallery on Small Business Saturdays, their art mostly featuring coastal Maine sites were for sale. She said they struggled to get certain frame sizes from their suppliers and some of their coasters with artwork might be slow to arrive, but most of everything else in their gallery is available, like usually, because they do almost everything themselves.

“Anything else we can do; we print all the art on our walls ourselves, ”she said of the posters, calendars and other bold prints from the downtown Gardiner gallery. “Shipping is a concern, but we try to get our orders out very quickly. We also always offer curbside pickup. We can accommodate everything.

She said business picked up on Friday and Saturday and speculated that people might be looking for more meaningful giveaways, as the coronavirus pandemic and supply chain delays it played a role in continue. She said they have two employees who are both “wonderful and that we greatly appreciate”.

Kathy and Matt Lindley, and their daughter Kate, shopped at the Alan Claude Gallery on Saturday, because they were looking for a specific piece, a print that featured friends of their own atop an overturned kayak.

Gardiner Main Street and Johnson Hall had special holiday events meant to draw people to the city.

A fundraiser taking place this weekend and next year inside Johnson Hall, a performing arts venue in downtown Gardiner, featured 34 Christmas trees, each donated by local businesses and decorated and surrounded and / or covered with donated items and gift cards, for which participants purchase raffle tickets.

Johnson Hall Executive Artistic Director Mike Miclon Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

Michael Miclon, executive artistic director of Johnson Hall, said the event is their biggest fundraiser, but also a fun and festive activity that draws people downtown.

“We’re in the same boat,” Miclon said, saying it was good for Johnson Hall and downtown businesses to attract people to Gardiner. He said the Johnson Hall Tree Festival will be the last to take place in the currently rough-looking theater space, as construction is set to begin in April 2022 for a massive and long overdue restoration. “There will be 400 places here, that’s going to bring a lot more people to come here, so that should really help the local economy.”

The Colonial Theater in Augusta, where officials are raising funds for a planned restoration there, is holding a similar holiday tree-themed fundraiser this weekend, the proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets for the trees benefiting the Colonial Theater and the Augusta Downtown Alliance.

This event is part of the 12 Day Augusta holiday events, which include tree lighting, fireworks on Saturday night, visits with Santa Claus and other events.

David Hopkins, owner of Merkaba Sol & the Chocolate Shoppe in downtown Augusta, said holiday shopping seemed to be off to a good start, especially with the Augusta Downtown Alliance and city events helping to bring people downtown.

He said downtown merchants have weathered the still-ongoing pandemic by supporting each other, including offering discounts to other downtown businesses, and shopping and recommending them. to each other, but above all by simply offering each other ideas and moral support.

“We’re going to sit down together and have some kind of think tank and help each other. That’s what’s cool about this street, ”he said of Augusta’s Water Street. “Maybe the supply chain issues could be a good thing, if they allow people to shop locally. “

He said that they had difficulty obtaining certain items – which come to the store from all over the world – and had problems obtaining certain types of chocolate, including white chocolate, but that overall they did not ‘have not been significantly affected by supply chain delays. . The store, which has the chocolate factory in the back, specializes in spiritual-related items, and its shelves appeared to be well-stocked as about a half-dozen shoppers checked out the merchandise on Saturday.

In Waterville, Robin Samalus-Getchell, owner of The Robin’s Nest, was busy filling customers’ orders for homemade wreaths for the post-Thanksgiving rush to decorate for the holidays.

The Samalus-Getchell business has grown rapidly since it first opened in 2018 and will move next year to a much larger space, growing from 366 square feet to 1,878 square feet of retail space.

She attributes the company’s success to customer service and the individualized approach to flower arrangements.

“This is the experience that customers love,” said Samalus-Getchell.

She noted that the company was experiencing supply chain issues for a variety of reasons, shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, which caused it to source more plants from from local producers.

A particular shipment of flowers was delayed because a driver fell ill with COVID-19 and was unable to make deliveries.

There have also been significant price increases due to the reduced supply of flora, Samalus-Getchell said, with the cost of some items having quadrupled.

Russell Coston, from China, came to Gardiner with his mother, aunt, daughter and daughter-in-law for the Festival of Trees at Johnson Hall, and also planned to go to River of Trees at the Colonial Theater. He said he plans to wait to do his Christmas shopping until the holidays approach and shop locally, in person, in part because he doesn’t like using computers. He said he doesn’t worry about supply chain issues because when he is shopping he sees what is available in stores and chooses from those items, rather than going looking for items. specific.

After a successful first year of #ShopSmall Week in 2020, Main Street Skowhegan continues the city’s Small Business Week celebration this year, from Small Business Saturday through December 4.

Gretchen Washburn, owner of InspirArt North gallery on Water Street, said she has noticed a trend in recent years to shop more locally.

“It’s slowly increasing,” Washburn said on Saturday, unsure of the exact cause of the change. “People are more supportive of their community.

One of Washburn’s long-time customers, Jill Dionne, of Norridgewock, said shopping at small businesses makes it possible to find unique items that make more special gifts during the holiday season, as opposed to large stores. area.

Washburn said all of the arts and crafts in the store are sourced from Maine artisans.

InspirArt allowed each customer to participate in a raffle to win a handmade gift basket from the store. Each company participating in the event offers different specials to attract customers.

Sarah Wishart-Rogers and her daughter have made the trip from Clinton for bargains and, admittedly, for goodies at The Bankery & Skowhegan Florist.

“I think I’m addicted,” Wishart-Rogers said with a laugh, as her daughter munched on a cake pop.

After a morning of shopping, Mike Pion, of Skowhegan, landed at Bigelow Brewing Co., who participated with 15% off gift cards. He said he enjoys seeing how small businesses in Skowhegan can come together and support each other.

“Everyone is teaming up,” Pion said.

At 1 Brunswick Trading, which sells antiques, vintage items and high-end cigars in Gardiner, owners Mary Ann and Peter Johnson said they have plenty of antiques to sell and their cigar supplies have remained strong. , although some items, such as boxes, were difficult to find. Peter said most of their cigars come from Nicaragua, where the supply does not appear to have been affected much by the pandemic.

“We notice that some of the specialty stores seem to be doing better than usual,” he said. “People are looking for specialty products, and they realize that a good deal doesn’t always come from the big boxes or from Amazon.”

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