Small Business Saturday helps LI recovery

Jean Weller of Kings Park, owner of Huntington

Jean Weller of Kings Park, owner of Huntington boutique Life Is Good, speaks with sales associate Bill Penza of East Northport during a break between customers on Small Business Saturday. (Nov. 24, 2012) (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein)

Independent merchants on Long Island's North and South shores took advantage of the third annual Small Business Saturday to make up for profits lost in the wake of Sandy, but also to aid with local recovery efforts.

Small retailers said Saturday's nationwide event, launched by American Express in 2010, provided a crucial economic boost as they tried to regain revenue withered away after the storm.

Jean Ann Weller, owner of the independently owned Life is Good clothing store in Huntington, who lost out on more than $7,000 in sales due to the storm, adjusted the sale price of short-sleeve T-shirts to $25.01. That way her customers purchasing with an American Express card could take advantage of the $25 credit offered by the company to cardholders who spent $25 or more at a qualifying small business, she said.

"We lost about 14 days of sales," said Weller, a former NYPD detective, adding she donated clothes, hats, gloves and scarves to victims of Sandy. "Small Business Saturday is huge because people come in . . . It's been really busy, but we really need the money."

Laurie Scheinman, owner of Wit & Whim gift boutique in Port Washington, said she will donate all proceeds from November and December sales, such as scarves, hand-embroidered belts, vintage rings and necklaces, to local charity Fill My Wagon and the American Red Cross.

"Unfortunately with Sandy, things came to a screeching halt," said Scheinman, a former child and family therapist who opened the store seven weeks ago and lost power for five days after the storm. "People felt guilty buying, but some people wanted to feel better so they did . . . They know our heart is in the right place."

Frank Yao, manager of Fantastic Spa in North Bellmore, said many of his customers use American Express cards and were able to take advantage of the deal. After the storm hit, he partnered with local organizations to raffle prizes for free manicures and pedicures. He also allowed local residents to take showers, use Wi-Fi and recharge their electronic devices, he said.

For the retail shopping day, Jon Taylor, owner of the Village Art & Frame Gallery, offered a 25 percent discount on works by Centerport photographer Bill Kinney. Taylor, who is also vice president of the Babylon Village Chamber of Commerce, has been helping to coordinate food, cleaning and clothing drives with the help of other local business owners and organizations.

"It's timely that they have Small Business Saturday," said Taylor, whose shop was closed for four days and who saw businesses along the water wiped out. "The effect of the storm was a ripple effect and it has been very slow this November and it is usually busy."

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