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Fairbanks merchants savor small-business focus

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Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2012 12:02 am | Updated: 12:07 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - By mid-afternoon on Saturday, Ken Kokjer had made 47 small hash marks on the whiteboard behind his desk. Each one represented a shopper at Gallery 49, Kokjer’s shop located in Co-op Plaza.

The running tally was a visual reminder of the traffic on Saturday, promoted nationwide as a day for holiday shoppers to buy from local merchants. It had been a good day.

As part of Small Business Saturday, Gallery 49 was giving out shopping bags and gift cards donated by American Express. The day, promoted since 2010, spurs buyers to keep their dollars local during the busy post-Thanksgiving shopping rush.

“Every little bit helps,” Kokjer said.

Rebecca Morse, co-owner at If Only … A Fine Store, said the number of shoppers had surged compared to a weekend earlier.

She said it’s tough to attribute the numbers to Small Business Saturday, since the weekend has always been good for sales, but said the emphasis on locally owned stores is “a fabulous thing.”

She said more awareness of shoppers including local shops in their rounds can only be good for business. “It’s a huge weekend, no matter what,” Morse said. “Shoppers see it as the start of the holiday season.”

At Country Kitchen, owners Kristine and Leonard Thiltgen also saw a steady stream of shoppers on both Friday and Saturday. A sale on cooking knives was accompanied by Leonard dishing out lattes to customers from an in-house espresso machine.

“I think just a lot of people are out shopping, having a good time,” Kristine Thiltgen said.

Frontier Outfitters and Woolly Rhino, which share a store at the Gavora Mall, promoted sales on both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Store manager Gerry Hovda said traffic was slow on Saturday morning — possibly from shoppers recovering from Black Friday, he said — but was roaring again by that afternoon.

“The clothing department definitely had a big boom,” he said.

Sarah Smith, the co-owner of Frank’s Menswear, said she doesn’t bank on post-Thanksgiving weekend sales as much as other merchants.

But she said feedback from customers seemed encouraging.

“Most people said they were hitting the box stores, but they were hitting the small businesses, too,” she said.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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