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Skip the Lines, Not the Shopping Spree

If Black Friday isn't your style but you still want to get your shop on, check out what Small Business Saturday has in store in North Branford.

Once I've cleared my plate of second, third and fourth helpings of chocolate coated pumpkin cheesecake and pan-seared potato gnocchi, I am ready to curl me and my two-day calorie intake into a tight cocoon in front of the fireplace.

For my step-mother and thousands of others, this is completely unacceptable. It's time to get your sneakers on, grab a blanket and head out to the store front of your favorite retail giant to ruthlessly defend your place in the Black Friday queue of bargain buffs. 

Sure, the price tags are impressive. With bright yellow tags boasting "80% OFF!", even something as mundane as a salad spinner becomes a must-have item. 

"I don't even like salad..but it's only four dollars!" ... we've all been there. What is not so impressive is the crowd. The long lines and limited space make for some foul-tempered, pushy and sometimes downright dangerous shoppers. 

If I can take it or leave it, I'll leave it. 

There is, however, an alternative for those of you looking to avoid the Black Friday cacophony. It's called Small Business Saturday - an American Express initiative two years in the making that encourages people to "shop small" and support the local businesses the day after the Friday madness. 

A message on the Small Business Saturday website encourages, "On November 26, we're asking millions of people to Shop Smallsm at their favorite local stores and help fuel the economy. When we all shop small, it will be huge."

With thousands flocking to giant retailers, the small shops in town often go empty during a time when most owners are relying on a holiday boost in sales. But, some businesses in your backyard right here in North Branford are pushing back and jumped on the opportunity to provide their customers with a pleasant, relaxing shopping experience this holiday season. 

Diane St.John of  is planning more than just discounts this weekend at her store. 

“While all the big box stores are putting together insane 'Black Friday' events,” said St.John, “we are organizing a calm, enchanting weekend with free, locally made donuts from Bishops on Friday and Pastry Fusions on Saturday and Sunday with hot coffee and cider. If you bring in a grocery bag of non-perishable food for the food bank, you get 10% off of anything you buy at Natureworks on Friday the 25-Sunday the 27th."

As for small businesses and the economy, St.John added, “We are the major job creators in our state. We help make up the heartbeat of this area. So, as the overwhelming inundation of commercial ads from big chain stores fill your inbox and the airwaves, think small businesses!”

Another local favorite on the roster is . Rae Regan shares a very practical approach to small businesses and the community.

“If you don't keep your money in the community, then the businesses you appreciate won’t be there anymore,” Regan said. “They want our advice, they want us to be here, then they take their money to the big stores. We think it’s awesome though that they [American Express] started doing this two years ago. They're not charging us anything and it's a big push for small businesses.”

Much like the retail rush this coming Friday, Country Paint will be marking down select items at some deep discounts and 50% off deals throughout the weekend. The selection of Christmas odds and ends, décor and lighting will also be up and out.

As if price slashing wasn't enough, American Express is not only spreading the word, they're also reaching into their pockets. You can receive a one-time $25 statement credit when you register any eligible American Express® Card and use that card to make a purchase of $25 or more at a small business on Nov. 26.

The initiative is still in its infancy, however, and many community shops have yet to hear of this golden opportunity to grab the attention of their neighbors and take back business this holiday season. If your local favorites are still in the dark, spread the word so you too can spend the last weekend of November on a calm, relaxing shopping spree.

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