Ditch the Amazon app and the crowded metroplex, and keep your holiday shopping local this Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday began as a complement to the biggest shopping day of the year, the grimly named Black Friday. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, stores slash prices and shoppers have been known to wrestle each other for the last Easy-Bake Oven on big box store shelves.
The next day — Small Business Saturday — is thus meant to inspire people to shop for holiday gifts locally, perhaps with less aggression, at brick-and-mortar stores in their communities. And Pennsylvania’s wide array of shopping districts are ideal sources for holiday gifts on just such a day.
We’ve put together a list of local shopping districts and stores all across the commonwealth that have the toys, books, art, clothing, and other gifts you’re seeking, on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 25 this year) and every day. If you shop small this season, not only will you support small businesses, but maybe you’ll also learn about some of the great shops in your community, meet some of the folks behind the counter, and then inspire the recipients of your gifts to do the same.
Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods, and many of these neighborhoods have their own shopping districts and long histories of community businesses.
There are a multitude of neighborhoods within the city where you can support small businesses, but we especially like Garfield and the Strip District. Garfield has several vintage stores, thrift stores, and cool gift shops. One, Workshop PGH, also holds community maker classes in case you want to pick up a gift at the store (fun stickers, lush plants) and then purchase a gift certificate to go towards a loved one taking a workshop. Adda Coffee & Teahouse has a few coffee shop locations around the city, but the Garfield location also has a small grocery and gift selection, with goods like fancy chocolate or artsy tea towels.
Closer to downtown Pittsburgh, the Strip District is well-known for its Saturday markets and large number of specialty grocery stores. Some of these stores are great places for gift buying. The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, for example, sells imported pantry ingredients for the Italian food lover in your life. And PA Libations — the only liquor store besides Fine Wine and Good Spirits in the state — only sells liquor made in Pennsylvania. Pick up that Western Pa. standby, rye whiskey, and gift it along with some Natrona ginger beer for a perfectly Pennsylvania present.
Like a number of cities across Pennsylvania, the northwestern city of Erie has a downtown district that’s largely made up of small businesses providing local goods and services to the community.
In Erie, you can visit an art gallery like D’Hopkins Denniston Gallery of Fine Art or City Gallery, the clothing shop open since 1850, Isaac Baker Menswear, and the unique action figure and toy store Actiontoyman.
And on Small Business Saturday (November 25), even more local Erie sellers will take over the downtown area. The Erie Downtown Partnership’s Shop Small Saturday Pop Up Market will feature Erie vendors at a handful of different locations throughout downtown, including The Boston Store and The Erie Art Museum. In addition, the Erie Handmade Fair will take place the same day at the Erie Family Center Gymnasium.
Gettysburg is not merely the perfect place to buy a gift for your dad/uncle/grandfather/brother/husband obsessed with the Civil War — it is also home to dozens of unique small businesses.
For those interested in Civil War history, you might want to swing by the Union Drummer Boy or military bookstore For the Historian. Antique lovers can crawl the Antique Center of Gettysburg, which has more than 100 showcases to view. Also check out Nerd Herd for lovers of board games, Play Like a Girl for retro toys, and Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers to browse a store entirely devoted to miniature soldiers, or Carver’s Toy Trains to browse a store entirely devoted to toy trains.
On any given Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, you can visit the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg not only for your groceries, but also for quality gifts like specialty coffee beans from Elementary Coffee Co., natural skincare products from NūBorn Skin, and even gourmet dog treats at Doggie Delights. A fire recently destroyed part of the Broad Street Market, so your support of the small businesses there means even more now.
On Small Business Saturday this year (November 25), and not far from the Broad Street Market, Harrisburg hosts the Odd Ones Holiday Bizarre at The Millworks. This alternative arts and crafts fair features vendors and artists from the wider Central Pa. community, and you’ll be able to pick up goods like woodcrafts, jewelry, ceramics, soap, handmade cards and art prints, and much more!
The biggest city in the state of course has some of the best small business shopping. Philly is so chock-full of cool and unique independent shops that it would be impossible to cover each and every neighborhood that deserves a shopping trip. But we’ll try our best by recommending you at least stop to shop in the city’s northwestern neighborhoods.
Along Germantown Avenue, you’ll have dozens of local businesses to choose from, like Germantown’s Black-owned Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, where you can sip on a cup of joe while browsing books, games, and other items. You could also buy plants as gifts at Pomelo, including a flower subscription!
In neighboring Mt. Airy, local businesses are hosting a “shopping crawl” on Small Business Saturday. Pick up a passport, visit shops like Queenie’s Pets and the new Ruby Mountain Goods boutique, and if you get your passport stamped at eight or more businesses, you’ll earn a Mt. Airy-themed ornament.
Another option for a day of shopping is Manayunk. Neighborhood businesses have planned discounts and special events for Small Business Saturday this year. For instance, Urbanburb Furniture will feature 15% off the entire store and Orbit Gallery will have an artist exhibiting a collection of Christmas ornaments. Anyone shopping for music lovers would be wise to visit the highly regarded record store Main Street Music, one of the longest-standing businesses along Manayunk’s Main Street.
But don’t forget about Philly suburbs as you’re making your holiday shopping plans. West Chester, for example, isn’t just celebrating Small Business Saturday — the borough has planned a Small Business Weekend, between Friday, Nov. 24 and Sunday, Nov. 26, to support the more than 50 local retail stores that call the area home. Check out Bryn Mawr Running Company for gifts for the runners you know and Taylor’s Music Store & Studios for gifts for the musicians.
Bethlehem’s Historic Moravian Shopping District is not only a National Historic Landmark District, but it’s also the home of the oldest bookstore in the country and the oldest continuously operating bookshop in the world: Moravian Book Shop. Sure, you could buy the new Pete the Cat book for your niece at Barnes and Noble, but isn’t there something special about supporting a shop that started in 1745, when George Washington was 13 years old? Also in the historic shopping district is the Celtic shop Donegal Square as well as a wine store from nearby Franklin Hill Vineyards.
You can also pop by Bethlehem’s SouthSide Arts District for a different shopping vibe. Take a look inside Martin’s Furniture, Wadsworth & Co. Antiques, and Cutter’s Bike Shop, as well as a number of specialty clothing boutiques and art galleries.
Big chain stores and Honesdale just don’t mix. Within the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pa., the charming town of Honesdale has a lively downtown area that’s teeming with fantastic small businesses to patronize. This sort of community-rich shopping experience can’t be found just anywhere.
Visit Mount Pleasant Herbary for soaps, teas and salves; Gather for clothes and home décor for the whole family; Ghiggeri’s Fine Olive Oils & Balsamics for quality oil and vinegar; Jennings Jewelers for classic jewelry; A Picker’s Find for antiques; and Dyberry Mercantile for all sorts of gifts, including sweet treats, home decorations, vintage goods, books, art, stationary, and even more.
Bonus: For the holiday season, Honesdale’s Main Street will be transformed into a winter wonderland, an effort that will include a storefront holiday decoration contest.