Small business? This weekend is a golden opportunity

The poster Michael Blichasz made available for stores to advertise their participation in National Small Business Weekend. Stores can also make their own promotional materials, he said. COURTESY OF MICHAEL BLICHASZ

To help support the River Wards’ small businesses, one former Port Richmond man is promoting National Small Business Weekend. All a business would have to do is promote its participation, and perhaps offer special deals or discounts the first weekend of each month. All customers would have to do is shop at their neighborhood stores. It’s a small way to make a big difference in communities where independent merchants are stationed on nearly every corner.

The River Wards are often described as up-and-coming neighborhoods, thanks to burgeoning residential development as well as the openings of businesses.

Though some of those businesses are big-box stores or chains, at the heart of the River Wards are small businesses. Boutiques, mom-and-pop pizza shops, delis or gift shops make up the landscape of the neighborhoods.

And while times are tough for any businesses, Michael Blichasz said small businesses are hit particularly hard.

That’s why he said he’s working to encourage independent merchants throughout the city to participate in National Small Business Weekend.

Blichasz, president of the Polish American Cultural Center, 308 Walnut St., lived with his family in Port Richmond years ago. He is also the program host of American Workers Radio, which broadcasts on 860 AM, where his broadcasts celebrate American businesses and American-made products.

The weekend, he said, is an offshoot of the American Express-sponsored Small Business Saturday, Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving that’s partner to other shopping-centric days that week, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

In 2012 on Small Business Saturday, consumers spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants, according to American Express’ reports.

Philadelphia’s First Friday is a similar promotion during which art galleries across the city host monthly open houses, and merchants and restaurants often offer special deals or freebies.

Instead of just one day a year, Blichasz said, he wants local independent merchants to promote National Small Business Weekend the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each month. The next one, then, would be Feb. 1 through 3.

“Just go spend your money there [at small businesses],” Blichasz said.

Stores that participate simply advertise, he said, via a poster in the store window, local advertising, social media or simply word of mouth, that they are a part of Small Business Weekend.

It costs nothing for the stores, but Blichasz said in order to further entice customers to shop, a store could run special deals, sales or promotions during that weekend.

First Friday participants, for example, offer free appetizers or wine, up to 50 percent discounts, or event live music in their stores or galleries.

“A bakery could give 14 rolls in a dozen, or a store could offer a percentage discount on certain items,” he said. “People have to be creative on their own.”

Blichasz said he’s been promoting the weekend for about a year. He also made made up posters for businesses to post in storefront windows advertising their participation.

Businesses that expressed interest and took the posters, he said, included Polka Deli, 2719 E. Allegheny Ave., Polish American Travel, at 2714 E. Allegheny Ave., and Krakus Market, at 3150 Richmond St.

He said the promotion hasn’t yet taken off, but he isn’t giving up.

“If there’s ever a time to try to revitalize, it’s now,” he said.

Port Richmond resident Theresa Romanowski, who works at the Polish American Cultural Center, said it’s important that small businesses are supported their surrounding communities. In Port Richmond particularly, she said businesses is coming back around.

“Something is stirring up in the neighborhood,” she said.

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Star will publish a list of businesses who participate in National Small Business Weekend. Let us know how you’re promoting your participation and if you’re offering any special deals. Contact star@bsmphilly.com with details.

To print the promotion poster or learn more about National Small Business Weekend, visit nationalsmallbusinessweekend.com.

More information on American Workers Radio can be found at americanworkersneedyou.com and americanworkersradio.com.

Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215–354–3113 or at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.