Phoenix businesses celebrate Small Business Saturday for holiday shopping

A select group of locally owned businesses in downtown Phoenix celebrated their annual small business shoppers’ holiday Saturday, in an effort to have more people shop local.

850zip, a community development organization promoting locally owned businesses, teamed up with American Express to celebrate Small Business Saturday at Portland on the Park in Phoenix with a scavenger hunt, a DJ and local artists.

The neighborhood just south of Union Hills Drive and 32nd Street is home to dozens of small businesses, nine of which participated in Saturday’s festivities.

"We love our community," said Kathey Wagner, a spokeswoman for 850zip.

"I think the people who come out today are really looking to make an intentional connection with that business owner, with their teams, with that business and they’re really looking to do something that will help the local community."

American Express teamed up with 850zip to host Small Business Saturday at Portland Park, November 24, 2018. Carly Henry, The Republic | azcentral.com

Mark Howard, the owner of the local restaurant, Fez, has participated with the American Express Small Business Saturday for the last 14 years.

"A lot of people don’t know that there are several businesses around here, we’re lucky were on the corner," Howard said.

Fez, a small local business that serves American food with a Mediterranean "flair," was buzzing with customers inside and out as patrons went from shop to shop collecting stickers for the scavenger hunt.

"Small business owners are really the backbone, to me, of America. It’s great to have a big business like American Express, obliviously a huge business, they employ a lot of people," Howard said.

"But it’s really small businesses that employ the majority of Americans and it takes a lot to start a small business, it takes a lot to keep it going, it takes a lot to keep a lot of people employed, so I always say shop local because it’s really important for your local community."

American Express created Small Business Saturday in 2010 as a way to help small businesses get more customers, and the celebration has since become an annual shopping tradition on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

“What began nine years ago as an effort to support local stores during the holiday shopping season has become the Shop Small movement, bringing together millions of shoppers, small businesses of all kinds, civic leaders and organizations in thousands of towns and cities across the country,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer at American Express.

Aaron Allen Marner painted a commissioned art piece outside of FEZ restaurant on Small Business Saturday, November 24, 2018.

Down the street from Fez, Bird Dog Pilates and Fitness gave out free shirts for those willing to try out a "Bird Dog exercise."

Jackie Young, one of the shoppers who was competing in the scavenger hunt and who lives in Portland on the Park, said she adores the area and all the small businesses.

"I love local business because I don’t like to drive so I walk around my neighborhood," Young said. "I just always feel like I get a higher quality of whatever I’m buying if I go local."

Across the street, Found:Re Phoenix Hotel, an independent hotel, opened their doors to a gallery of locally sourced artists.

"We’re part of the community. We’re all about small business," said Michael Oleskow, the cultural curator for Found:Re Phoenix Hotel.

Oleskow said it was their first year participating in the Small Business Saturday at Portland on the Park.

"I like to see my money go back to the community, to know that it goes to people’s wages, that it goes to shop owners that actually own the shop," Oleskow said.

"We’re all about giving back and being local."

Bill Clark and Edie Clark talked to Kelsey Pierson, a bartender at the Larder + the Delta, on Small Business Saturday in Portland Park, November 24, 2018.

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