After mostly missing last year's shopping season, buyers returned to their local stores on Small Business Saturday, with some businesses starting slowly and others seeing a steady stream of customers.
In Port Jefferson, although few people were visible along Main Street earlier in the day, customers began to trickle into shops shortly after noon.
Stacy Davidson, owner of Pattern Finders on East Main Street, a little after 11 a.m. said she had just finished selling to her first customer of the day.
"We are a late town, traditionally our customers don’t come in until after noon, if not later, so it’s hard to judge," said Davidson, who this year has seen more customers ages 50 and older return to her jewelry, clothing and accessories store she has operated for 27 years. "But we’re very positive, though."
As several customers were shopping at Earring Tabu Boutique on East Main Street, Kristen Hoffman and her daughter Ava, 17, said the family-run jewelry, clothing and gift boutique store, which has been open for 32 years, had been seeing a steady stream of customers throughout the morning.
Hoffman, 39, of Port Jefferson, the owner, said she was hoping for a return to normalcy this year. She said she was encouraged by a successful Black Friday, during which her store did twice as well as it did last year.
"It’s really important for me that we just go back to normal. Moving forward is important, and I think it makes our customers feel more comfortable, too," Hoffman said.
In downtown Huntington, parking lots were full and Christmas wreaths hung from streetlights as shoppers bustled in and out of stores and coffee shops.
Town officials and leaders of Long Island chambers of commerce and the group Vision Long Island stood on Wall Street, in front of a 65-foot constructed Christmas tree, to kick off the local shopping event. The Huntington Holiday Light Parade followed Saturday night, with the menorah lighting scheduled for Monday.
Helene Falcone was shopping with her granddaughter Paige, 5, as they looked upon the holiday decorations. Paige said she was "getting a present for her mommy."
"We like to support stores so they can stay open," Falcone said. "We like to eat out and support our favorite restaurants and small businesses. If you want the town to survive, you need to come down and support the stores."
At Little Switzerland Dolls on Main Street in Huntington, Lily Bergh was preparing to deliver a dollhouse to a family in Locust Valley.
The toy store, which has thrived for 40 years, has spawned generations of families returning to collect gifts for children and grandchildren.
"We’re hoping this will be a great day," Bergh said. "Why buy online when you can support your community and give back."
Elizabeth Wellington, deputy director of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce for Nassau County, said shopping locally helped all businesses, including minority- and Black-owned stores, stay in business.
"It goes across the line. Everyone got affected by the pandemic," Wellington said. "Unless they get a little relief or funding, some people totally lost their jobs and businesses. It's very important to shop local and leave money in the community, because so often it disappears in a few seconds and it helps businesses stay in business."
In Massapequa Park, the roads around Park Boulevard were closed off around 2:30 p.m. for the evening tree lighting ceremony.
Kim Gallagher, owner of Lu Bella Boutique, said she saw strong sales on Black Friday but Saturday was slower in comparison.
Despite that, Gallagher said she remains optimistic and hopes more customers would be coming in this weekend through Cyber Monday.
"Small Business Saturday is very important to us, because last year, it wasn’t a great year," Gallagher said. "Will it be good and successful? That remains to be seen."
Helen Fishman, owner of Massapequa Soccer and Sport Shop, said business had been "going pretty well today" and she saw more families in town shopping because of the Saturday tree lighting.
"Also, the pandemic is different from last year," said Fishman, whose sporting goods store has been in business for 47 years. "People just want to be out. It’s been a busy Saturday for us, so it’s nice."
In Rockville Centre, Kathleen’s of Donegal Irish import store saw a busy flow of customers.
The family-owned business for 34 years features imported clothing and Irish foods and has a loyal following, manager Shauna Ryan said.
"We’ve had great business today and more people are comfortable coming out," Ryan said. "We’re very grateful for the community to support us. We have a lot of regulars come here often."
Karen Montalbano, past president of the Baldwin Civic Association, said the South Shore community hopes to revive its downtown to attract more small business shoppers.
"Baldwin is small and working toward something like this," she said. "What we spend here will hopefully come back to us and keep our homegrown dollars on Long Island, helping each other."