In downtowns all over Long Island, shoppers turned out in droves for Small Business Saturday including communities like Sayville. Shari Einhorn reports for NewsdayTV. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams

Small businesses had a big day Saturday as Long Islanders celebrated Small Business Saturday, with local stores holding special sales, staging holiday-themed street events and reminding people of their importance to the community.

Sandwiched between the shopping mega-holidays of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which tend to help the big-box stores and e-commerce market, Small Business Saturday aims to help the "little guys" in the retail world. It comes as many of these stores struggle to rebound from the pandemic as well as inflation and concerns about a potential recession.

In communities from Port Washington to Rockville Centre to Sayville, mom-and-pop stores banded together to gussy up their shopping strips with bells, ribbons and all manner of holiday adornments. There were Santa sightings all over the Island, making spirits bright, leading children and their parents into a full-on holiday season swoon. 

In Sayville, jingle bells and holiday music wafted through the air at the hamlet's 16th annual Miracle on Main on Saturday. It featured a parade, winter wonderland, trolley rides and ice skating. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Small businesses had a big day as Long Islanders celebrated Small Business Saturday.
  • Sandwiched between the shopping mega-holidays of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday aims to help the "little guys" in the retail world.
  • The shopping holiday comes as many of these stores struggle to rebound from the pandemic as well as inflation and concerns about a potential recession.

Streets were bustling with people strolling and shopping.

The DiSilvestre family stopped by the 30 Hamptons West Vintage Boutique to inquire about some items they had ordered and then took a stroll through the decorated streets.

“It feels magical to walk in there and they have nice seasonal items,” said Melanie DiSilvestre, 33, who attended Sayville's parade with her 1- and 3-year-old sons and husband.

Beyond enjoying a family day out on a mild late-fall day, she felt good to support her town's businesses.

"I think it's important to keep mom-and-pop businesses alive," DiSilvestre said. "We really like the town of Sayville; the owners here are very nice. The owners made me two custom pieces," including a Bayport sign with a compass and map.

Store clerk Audrey Schneider at 30 Hamptons West Vintage Boutique...

Store clerk Audrey Schneider at 30 Hamptons West Vintage Boutique on Main Street in Sayville. Credit: John Roca

It was a day for Long Islanders to show their love of their downtowns while reveling in their unique offerings, convenience and extra-personal care.

Store owners said they desperately need a good holiday season to make up for the economic downturn, closures and general isolation of the past few years.

Tricia Tom, owner of Kay Cameron Jewelers on Main Street in Sayville, had purchased the business last year and was cautiously optimistic about the future. “People are definitely nervous, I think. Our town has been very slow,” she said.

She noted the Starbucks across the street had moved out and the business was vacant from December until March, when a local coffee store opened.

Shop owners expressed their appreciation for the residents. 

“If we don’t have them to support us, there would be no ‘us,’” Tom said. 

'Critical juncture'

Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 by the American Express credit card brand as a way to get people to shop on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. This year, it might be more important than ever, said Martin R. Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-economic Policy.

"I think it's critical for many small businesses," said Cantor, adding that many did not survive the pandemic.

He added, "We're coming out of the pandemic running into inflation. This is a critical juncture, especially in the downtowns of Long Island."

Dana Sweet with her daughters Mackenzie, left, and Alexis on Main Street...

Dana Sweet with her daughters Mackenzie, left, and Alexis on Main Street in Sayville. Credit: John Roca

There was a good amount of hope that the day would benefit local retailers. A new survey found 59% of holiday shoppers were likely to shop Saturday.

Millennials showed the most enthusiasm, with 69% of shoppers that age saying they had planned to shop on Small Business Saturday. Gen Zers were just behind at 65%, according to the August survey by Bankrate, a consumer financial services company based in New York City.

Photos with Santa, trolley rides, more

In Glen Cove, the Downtown Business Improvement District hosted its Holiday Festival in Village Square. There were horse and carriage rides, all-day entertainment, photos with Santa, train rides and hot cocoa. 

Tara Farrell, owner of the Out of the Blue shop on...

Tara Farrell, owner of the Out of the Blue shop on Main Street in Sayville, sets up a rack of clothing and accessories on the sidewalk in front of the store on Small Business Saturday. Credit: John Roca

Port Washington dressed up its downtown in red bows. Santa was booked to make an appearance riding a fire truck and was then expected to greet kids of all ages at the train station. There was live and recorded entertainment in the streets. Free trolley rides were offered for shoppers, along with free street parking.

In Rockville Centre, some businesses on North Park Avenue hung wreaths and garlands outside their shops. It was a relaxed afternoon, with some people walking their dogs and others window shopping or slipping into eateries and shops.

At Jeannine’s Gifts, a baby clothing and gift shop, a block-long line of customers had waited to take advantage of special discounts Saturday morning, according to staff there. The staff called it a "mad-dash" sale, in which the store had 30% off in the first hour, 20% for the next three hours and then 10% the rest of the day. 

Jeannine Palladio, store owner since 2004, said she tried to add personal touches like offering free baked goods. 

"It went amazing," Palladio said. "Our loyal supporters always come and there are always new customers. It means a lot."

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