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Skip the crowds with Small Business Saturday

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Rob Garrison, right, helps customer Bethany Velasco at Homer Men and Boys Wednesday afternoon.

HOMER — After a hectic, crowded, armpit-to-elbow rush of Black Friday, Brenda Contento hopes you have a relaxed, laid-back shopping experience on Small Business Saturday.

At her place. Contento, a massage therapist in Homer, operates one of dozens of small, locally owned businesses that are letting the big-box retailers and malls have their day before countering with a different sort of holiday time.

Contento doesn’t have specials. “Well, maybe I should,” she said.

Contento owns Evolution Massage at 12 S. Main St., the former First Niagara Bank building. She doesn’t necessarily expect to work her fingers to the bone rubbing the tension out of your muscles Saturday, but she does expect to sell a lot of gift certificates.

“People don’t treat themselves enough,” Contento said. “I have a lot of first-time people who absolutely love it and come back.”

Small Business Saturday started in 2010 as a response to the big-box domination of Black Friday and the online experience of Cyber Monday. It’s officially a trademark of American Express Corp., but businesses offering deals that day are not necessarily affiliated with the credit card company.

Across Main Street from Evolution, at Homer Men and Boys Store, Rob Garrison and Jim Contento might add one extra person today and Saturday, but don’t expect lines out the door at 5 a.m. Or even lines at any time.

“Generally, the day starts out slow and gets busy,” Contento said. “Shoppers get through the giveaway, then they come here to stock up.”

“We don’t have the door-buster deal to give,” Garrison added.

“When they sell giveaway televisions, we have jeans,” Jim Contento said. “We’re keeping our prices the same. We start out low and keep ’em that way.”

In the city, the Cortland Downtown Partnership will set up shop from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at BRU 64 on Main Street to give away 100 tote bags with information about downtown businesses. Ten will have gift certificates for up to $100.

“Shoppers can caffeinate up and head out early,” said project coordinator Jane Witty of Cortland Downtown Partnership. She counts 13 businesses offering deals or promotions, and probably more that will do something and haven’t told her. Jewelers, florists, food stores, leather goods, wine — a bit of everything. “There’s a lot to offer,” Witty said.

A few blocks away, the businesses at the Cortland Corset Co. building on East Court Street will have a building-wide open house. Cinch Art Space will offer mulled cider to sip as people shop.

“Tammie has some secret way of doing it,” owner Tina Minervini said of her partner, Tammie Whitson. “We’re treating this as a holiday kickoff.”

As a consignment shop for artists, Cinch can’t offer the deals other retailers can, but Minervini promises a different kind of retail experience.

‘People are getting tried of the big box. For the past week, there’ve been Black Friday sales,” she said. “People are looking for something deeper.”

Perhaps, she said, the classes will go over well — an experience rather than an item. Or maybe something both pretty and practical from a local artist. Or maybe they’ll walk upstairs to check out the yoga studio, the massage therapist or Mason’s Patent, which sells any number of items to put in and around a Mason jar.

“We’ve already seen it: a lot of people have been in and making their plan,” Minervini said.

A couple of doors down, Stacey Goldyn Moller at Magpie Custom Creations said she talked a number of her artists into discounts, but uses the event more to draw attention than profit. “This will be the only time I ever do a sale — Small Business Saturday.”

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