GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – With Thanksgiving and Black Friday in the rearview, scores of shoppers hit local retailers and restaurants Saturday in celebration of the eighth annual “Small Business Saturday.”

The holiday was launched in 2010 by American Express following the 2008 recession. The company said customers have reported spending $85 billion since Small Business Saturday started.

It’s like the Super Bowl for local businesses, said Elyse Welcher. She and her husband Jake Vroon recently rebranded their leather goods and accessories store to Gemini Handmade, participating in their first Small Businesses Saturday from their East Hills storefront.

“We may have one or two days that are a little busier closer to Christmas, just when people are trying to catch up and make up for lost time,” Welcher said. “But this will definitely one of our top days of the year."

In 2015, there were more than 30 million small businesses in America, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. A National Retail Federation survey found that 67 million people planned to visit those businesses for the holiday.

Local businesses are a lot like local government, said Grand Rapids Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear, who was shopping Saturday afternoon at Nourish Your Curls Boutique on Breton Road SE.

“You have to be supportive, you have to be engaged, you have to be interactive, you have to know what's going on because they help to make the community thrive,” Lenear said.

The day provides small business owners a chance to meet and connect with new customers, said Kayon Tompkins, owner of Nourish Your Curls.

“It’s different faces that I’m getting to meet that didn’t know I exist,” Tompkins said. “So that opportunity opens up for more customers to…create a relationship and can [give more] referrals by them experiencing a one-on-one experience in here.”

From 2000-2017, small businesses created 8.4 million new net jobs, accounting for almost two thirds of net new job creation, the SBA report found.

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