Small businesses depend on busy shopping weekend amid high operating costs

It’s an expensive time to run a small business, and many are relying on this busy shopping season for a much-needed boost.

Business owners across the metro are thanking their loyal customers for their support from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.

"Small Business Saturday was really great. Of course, we always want it to be busier," said Markella Smith, owner of the DREAM Shop.

"I thought Small Business Saturday would be a little bit stronger, but we did have a boost. It's just people are more thoughtful of what they're spending their money on," said Kristi Stratton, owner of Hunt & Gather.

That intentionality is giving some local shops the chance to highlight what they're known for.

"You can find one-of-a-kind, quirky gifts, not the cookie-cutter gifts that you see everywhere else," Stratton said.

But other small businesses did not get the sales boost they were hoping for this weekend.

"We had the worst Saturday I can find on record since 1996 here," said Chris Kolstad, the owner of Pizza Man in Columbia Heights.

All three business owners told FOX 9 their costs are up for almost everything.

"(A case of cheese) cost me about 89 dollars when I bought the place. Now, it's $127. Beef, bacon about 15 percent (increase). Mushrooms almost double. The olives almost double. Just about everything's gone up," Kolstad said. 

He bought the small pizza joint three and a half years ago, right before the pandemic, and he has watched other businesses around him struggle to stay afloat.

"We've had three other restaurants within seven blocks of here close this week," Kolstad said. "For us, this is more than just going and getting a paycheck every day. This is our paycheck, and actually I can't even take a paycheck."

The DREAM Shop, a gift shop in north Minneapolis’ Folwell neighborhood, showcases nearly 30 entrepreneurs, many of whom are Black and/or women. Smith makes much of the jewelry, but customers can also find a wide range of other items, including journals, local artwork, and beard oil.

"There are some months or some weeks we are like, ‘I don't know how we're going to keep doing this.’ We're pulling up by our bootstraps, but I think it's our sense of community that we built here that really kind of keeps us going," said Smith, who also makes a point of employing local teenagers to help give them a sense of purpose.

Other business owners agree that a sense of community that keeps them going, as well.

"You don't see the corporates in the world putting out money for someone's t-ball league or someone's bowling league, or their high school band trip," Kolstad said.

The business owners also recognize that their customers' costs have all gone up, too, from food to gas to rent. And that is likely a big reason some of them didn't see the sales they were hoping for this weekend. 

They want to remind customers of the importance of shopping local as they go through the holiday season.

"When you shop at a small business, you are literally supporting someone's family, someone's dream, someone's long-term goal," Smith said.