Small Business Saturday About More Than Money

Elizabeth Bloom is a white women with long, red hair wearing a black sweater, standing in her home goods store and smiling at the camera.
Elizabeth Bloom, owner of Home Grown, partners with Marlyn Schiff and other Haverford businesses. | Courtesy of Elizabeth Bloom

This Small Business Saturday, area Jewish-owned businesses are concerned with more than just good deals and discounted products.

Between the growing convenience of online shopping and Black Friday sales from big-box retailers, small businesses are looking for ways to edge out competition from the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

“Jeff Bezos doesn’t need any more money. The small business around the corner from you definitely does to survive,” said Tina Dixon Spence, founder and owner of Philadelphia child clothing boutique Buddha Babe. “This is the one time a year where we get highlighted and can really make an impact on our revenue.”

These businesses not only rely on Small Business Saturday — which falls on Nov. 27 — as a means of keeping themselves afloat, but also the local economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Eastern Pennsylvania District Director Steve Dixel, small businesses employ half of the state’s workforce and comprise almost all Pennsylvania businesses. Sixty-eight percent of the money spent at small businesses stays in the local economy.

To ensure a successful Small Business Saturday, businesses are hard at work.

Marlyn Schiff is a white woman with wavy, dark hair wearing a leather jacket and smiling. She is fastening a necklace onto a customer's neck.
Marlyn Schiff Jewelry will offer significant deals on Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27 | Courtesy of Marlyn Schiff

Marlyn Schiff, owner of wholesaler and boutique Marlyn Schiff Jewelry, plans on extending her Haverford store’s hours, staying open an extra hour on both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, as well as staying open on Sunday, when the store is usually closed.

Schiff hopes that deals will also help draw in customers: “There’s a gift with purchase and 30-50% off of everything in the store.”

For businesses with a smaller workforce, the day looks different.

“For my small business, it’s not really about the deals or savings, but I’m trying to give more value, more exciting product offerings,” said Danielle Abrams, owner of HamsaMade, an online-based mosaic art store that upcycles glass objects to create personalized Judaica.  

Abrams also will offer gifts with purchase but wants to continue her messaging to customers that she is there to provide a personalized service, not mass-produced products. 

Dixon Spence will host a one-year birthday celebration of the Buddha Babe brick-and-mortar store, which opened on Small Business Saturday in 2020 and survived despite the pandemic. Buddha Babe has a kiosk at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market at Dilworth Park, where she will be every night for the next six weeks. 

Tina Dixon Spence is a Black woman with long, black hair wearing all black. She is sitting at a tidy, well-decorated desk and looking at the camera.
Tina Dixon Spence will sell her children’s clothing line and accessories at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market in Dilworth Park. |
Courtesy of Buddha Babe

On Small Business Saturday, however, she will be at her storefront, where she will toast to Buddha Babe’s success with community members.

“It’s going to be more of a celebration and not a push for sales because I feel like the revenue is going to take care of itself downtown,” she said. “I’m not putting all my eggs in that basket, as I have in previous years.”

For Dixon Spence, like many other small business owners, community is key. Seventy-three percent of Dixon Spence’s customers are repeat customers. Building strong relationships is the primary advantage local businesses have over their large corporate competition, she said.

“We’re really figuring out how to service anybody who possibly needs it, and it’s very personalized,” Schiff said.

Over the pandemic, Schiff and her colleagues have offered FaceTime appointments with customers and have expanded their shipping operations. On Small Business Saturday, they plan to set up outdoor heaters for those waiting in line outside and provide snacks, water and places to sit.

And with fewer degrees of separation between their suppliers and customers, small businesses have dodged some of the supply chain disruptions that have afflicted large retailers.

“That’s the beauty of shopping from a small artist,” Abrams said. “I’m not really reliant on anything sitting on a boat in the middle of the ocean that isn’t going to get to the port on time.”

Because Abrams sources materials directly from her customers, such as using the breaking glass from a Jewish wedding to create a mosaic piece, she doesn’t have to worry about telling her customers she doesn’t have something in stock.

Danielle Abrams is wearing a striped jumpsuit and smiling while sitting at a mosaic table filled with craft supplies. She has dark, curly hair and is wearing red lipstick.
Danielle Abrams has been able to dodge supply chain problems by using upcycled materials from her customers. | Photo by Angela Gaspar

Schiff has managed the supply chain without issue. Because most of her business is wholesale, she has plenty in stock at her brick-and-mortar store.

Though Dixon Spence has had trouble sourcing fabric for next season’s designs, it shouldn’t impact Buddha Babe for the rest of the year.

The businesses also have power in numbers, having supported each other throughout the pandemic.

“You do what you do well, and you support your neighbors and help them do what they do well and, as a result, all of you will flourish,” said Elizabeth Bloom, owner of home goods store Home Grown in Haverford.

Bloom and Schiff are neighbors — they “share a parking lot” — and periodically partner with one another and other Haverford businesses for events.

Earlier this month, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia hosted a “Shop and Schmooze” event, where shoppers from Marlyn Schiff Jewelers and Home Grown received discounts and gave donations to the Jewish Federation.

Schiff convinced a handful of neighborhood shops to stick large rainbow decals in their windows, a symbol of unity.

Schiff recently was honored by the New York-based Accessories Council as an Accessories Industry Hero at the 2021 ACE Awards. She donated more than 50,000 surgical masks to hospitals and jewelry to essential workers via her Fill a Box, Send a Smile program.

During the height of the pandemic, Schiff said that it was as if society had “turned back to the old days where it was neighborhood living.” Small businesses were able to connect with customers in a way that transcended just the exchange of money for goods and services.

“It made you feel like you belonged,” Schiff said.

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