Shoppers Hit The Streets, Markets On Small Business Saturday

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November 30, 2021
Shoppers Hit The Streets, Markets On Small Business Saturday
DNR 11/29/21
Sometime around 10:15 Saturday morning, downtown Harrisonburg’s cold sidewalks slowly morphed into a dervish of leashed dogs, pushed strollers and shoppers armed with credit cards, cash and shopping lists.

It was here, her breath visible in the morning air through her James Madison University mask, that Jennifer Riggle was in search of a hidden treasure, preparing to open the door to Agora Downtown Market.

“But not until I get a cup of coffee first,” she said. “Then it’s treasure-hunting time.”

Sometime around 11:30 Saturday morning, with the sun warming the air along a busy stretch of Va. 42 in Dayton, Erin O’Kelly found her El Dorado. A myth she long heard about finally becoming a reality.
“My wife heard about this place,” O’Kelly said, standing outside Dayton Market. “I don’t remember how, but I want to say about 10 years ago.”

Maybe a sign along a road, possibly the internet or through word-of-mouth during their travels up and down the Shenandoah Valley.

The market became a joke between the two Pennsylvania natives who now call Roanoke home. More a legend than anything else, really, brought up each time they traveled back and forth along Interstate 81, passing the exit where they had a feeling the market was located.

She laughed. It was like searching for gold, though, to be honest, they never really went out of their way to find it. Not until Saturday, at least, when O’Kelley, driving alone in her Chevy SUV after visiting family in Harrisburg, Pa., decided it was time.

“Now, finally, I’m here,” she said, stifling another laugh. “And she’s going to be jealous.”

O’Kelly thought the best time to prove the Dayton Market was indeed real was on Small Business Saturday. Created in the midst of the 2010 recession, Small Business Saturday came about to encourage shoppers to buy wares from local retailers.

A small fight against the Walmarting of America; a nudge to bring consumers back to spending their dollars on the local level.

So O’Kelly took a photo of the Dayton Market sign along 42 before taking off her hat, slinging a purse over her shoulder and walking into a bit of personal history.

“She’s going to be jealous,” the 38-year-old said, sending the photo to her wife through a text. “Let’s see what she says.”

Back in Harrisonburg, Riggle placed her order at Broad Porch Coffee Co. inside Agora while Kathy Hurst meticulously fixed the items on display at her shop — Heartworn Vintage — nestled in the back corner. The air filled with talk and scents and Hurst’s eyes grow wide, giving away the smile behind her mask.
“Every day is important to us,” she said. “But today, especially.”

Small Business Saturday kicks off a time that helps businesses like hers — which she co-owns with daughter Allie Motyka — get through the end of the year.

It bumps the sales. “And it bumps our spirits,” Hurst said.

Surrounded by clothes, household goods, furniture, knickknacks (“A little bit of everything,” she said) from the 1940s through the 1980s, the idea of being under one roof with seven other businesses also warms her spirits.

“This concept has really taken off,” she said. “We’re kind of a one-of-a-kind store, I think we capture the fun of the era of that time. The colorful and the happy, it makes me happy to have all this colorful stuff.”
Her eyes grow wide again. Another smile behind the mask.

A short walk up Main Street at OASIS Fine Art and Craft, Sally Ridgway, a member of the co-op and on the board, greeted customers as they walked in.

“It’s early and it’s cold,” she said.“But I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot more people this afternoon.”

While the shop isn’t as crowded as Dayton Market or Agora, it’s steady. The door opening and shutting, people walking around and looking at the art on the walls all the while Christmas music played over speakers.

“Sometimes there are people who are coming downtown who, maybe, would not have come downtown if they did not hear about Small Business Saturday,” Ridgway said. “The decorations are up … that openness and friendliness, I think it brings a lot of people downtown.”

And there’s been help from Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, an organization created in 2003 that promotes the entire downtown as a destination. This year, every $25 spent at downtown businesses on Small Business Saturday earns an entry into a drawing for prizes that include two $150 downtown dollars. In-person shoppers filled out slips to put into entry boxes or took photos of their receipts to email to Online shoppers can forward their receipts to the same address.
And while Ridgway is a big proponent of downtown, she wants to make sure the small businesses in the surrounding area get their due.

“[Small Business Saturday] is not just for downtown,” she said. “There are a lot of small businesses around town that deserve to have some recognition also.”

The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce is helping extend the shop-local rewards with its 2021 holiday campaign running until Dec. 14. Shoppers who spend $25 or more at 56 participating businesses spanning the city and county can enter to win a holiday gift basket filled with local goods.
When she stopped at Shirley’s Popcorn, Riggle was planning on entering. But, at 12:28 p.m. with the temperature rising a bit, she was sipping another cup of coffee while walking along Main Street. Treasures in hand with “plenty of room for more,” she said.

“Then, I’m going home.”

And in Dayton, even before she could enter the mythical market she longed to find, O’Kelly finally got the response she wanted. She joked her little solo side trip probably wouldn’t put her marriage in jeopardy, even as the answer to the texted photo came in the form of a question.

“REALLY?” it read.

O’Kelly smiled. “Yep. She’s jealous.”