Large retailers from outside the area just might get a run for their money this holiday season, based on the enthusiasm on display Monday at a promotional event in northwest Bakersfield that was intended to set the stage for this weekend’s Small Business Saturday event.
Organizations including local small business owners came together at Brimhall Square Shopping Center to spread word about the benefits of shopping at Bakersfield and Kern County stores and service providers.
Everyone who spoke at the center’s fountain agreed money spent with local shops recycles back into the community, strengthening opportunity and supporting Kern County’s economy.
One of the entrepreneurs who showed up to share in the excitement, Action Sports owner Kerry Ryan, said the event raises awareness about the good that local shops do, such as hosting events for the community.
“That’s what local businesses do. We support the raffles, the auctions, the charities, the events,” Ryan said, adding that shops based here are “totally engaged in the community.”
Ryan voiced special appreciation for the promotion’s social media aspects, which he said recirculate online throughout the critical holiday shopping season. “All the things they’re doing is making people aware.”
His comment was a reference to the event’s organizers and sponsors at the Greater Bakersfield Chamber, city government and the Kern Women’s Business Center, which joined for a brief event geared toward local news media.
The main idea Monday was to persuade Bakersfield-area shoppers to dedicate part of the day Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving, to checking out what’s available at local stores.
As happened last year, representatives of the chamber of commerce asked that people post their experiences on social media using the hashtags #ShopLocalShopNow and #BakoChamber. They also directed consumers to an online portal, shoplocalshopnow.com, where there’s a list of local businesses that are also chamber members.
Director Norma Dunn of the Kern WBC expanded the event’s scope a bit by noting during a speech Monday that the whole community benefits when people shop at stores from Tehachapi to Lost Hills that are owned by women, minorities and military veterans.
“Think about those businesses that are here — local businesses,” she said, adding that such shops also tend to have unique gifts not available elsewhere.
Vice President Cameron Illingworth at Bakersfield retailer Urners offered the company’s support for the annual promotion that he said nurtures local business and reflects the community’s core beliefs and strengths.
Shoppers who participate don’t just make a purchase, Illingworth said — they make an investment. He urged residents to shop early as a way of making their purchases count more than they otherwise might.
Mayor Karen Goh, after making a characteristically buoyant speech about Small Business Saturday, headed straight into a nearby business after the event, where she riffed on the day’s theme of engagement.
Sitting on a hair stylist’s chair inside Sip and Style Blowdry Bar Makeup Bar, which offers customers drinks while they receive service, the mayor improvised a few lines as if she were an advertising professional.
“When you look great, you can serve the great residents of our great city,” Goh said before getting up and sitting for photos with local residents including two little girls who had come in with their mother.
“You never know what the mayor has to do,” she said, joking and enjoying herself in the wet dry bar.
She was more serious minutes earlier in front of TV cameras, talking about how shoppers can find personalized gifts if they participate in Small Business Saturday.
“It’s not only a one-time shopping experience,” she said, “but you’re helping to realize the dream of small business owners and contributing to the economic vitality of our business community.”
Sip and Style owner Shelly Guess said it was her belief that the annual promotion “absolutely” works. It leads to one-on-one service and keeps the economy going locally.
“If you shop here,” Guess said, “the money stays in our local community and keeps our economy thriving.”