Small business are essential in communities, according to shoppers and business owners across the Valley during Small Business Saturday.

Those from the area on Saturday joined others from around the nation to support smaller shops on the day after bigger retailers slashed prices on Black Friday. American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 and in the nine years since, estimated spending at retailers and restaurants topped $100 billion, according to the latest annual survey from AmEx and the National Federation of Independent Business.

"Small Business Saturday is a wonderful opportunity to support our businesses in our hometown and buy wonderful gifts locally," said Maria Bhangdia, of Lewisburg, who came to the Mercantile on Market Street, Lewisburg, to shop. "It's convenient, and they're a unique boutique with things you can't find in bigger stories."

Plus, she added, "It's a lot more fun to shop in stores than online."

On the same block, Mimi's Boutique owner Denise Gulliver handed out cookies as customers shopped.

"Shopping local keeps our stores going, and they can find unique items," she said.

Carolyn Baker, of Chambersburg, shopped at Mimi's after visiting family in Lewisburg. She is also a former business owner.

"I love it," she said. "I did it for 10 years and finally have a year off to go shopping."

Linda Matuszewski, the owner of G-Mom's Handmade Everything at the Sunbury Market House, said she loves meeting people and selling her items.

"Black Friday: forget it, I stay home," she said.

Erica Thomas, of Sunbury, said it was her first time shopping on Small Business Saturday.

"I didn't know about it until I came out," she said. "It would be nice to see a town thrive on small businesses instead of the big commercial businesses."

Sunbury's Revitalization Inc. Business and Economic Development Committee set up a table at Stroh Alley between Ed Wentz-State Farm Agent & the Sunbury Market House) from 10 a.m. to 12 noon to giveaway bags, pins, and coupons. From Saturday to Dec. 4, they are offering a $10 gift card to a Sunbury small business to shoppers who snap a photo of their purchase, upload it to Facebook and/or Instagram with the hashtag #ShopSunburyPA, and tag 3 of their friends.

"It's extremely important to support small business and be a part of the community in Sunbury," said SRI Executive Director Derrick Backer. "I'm looking forward to continuing this relationship in the future."

The Lewisburg Downtown Partnership was also promoting its Downtown Shopping Pass that offered 15-percent discounts at 44 different businesses including eateries — 40 on Market Street and another four just off the main drag.

The Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau promotes a shopping pass of its own, good through Dec. 31 at more than 60 retailers throughout the region. Each merchant promotes a store-specific discount or gift. This pass is available to be downloaded or printed at www.visitcentralpa.org.

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