ELLSWORTH — On Small Business Saturday Nov. 30, Peter Lione had to refill the coffee — twice.
That hadn’t happened in previous years at the Ellsworth Holiday Marketplace where Lione, creative director for Heart of Ellsworth, is also one of seven vendors. The popularity of the coffee reflected the fast pace of buying and selling at the marketplace in the former J&B Atlantic building on Main Street.
“It’s been wonderful,” he said Saturday. Customers were even asking to buy items displayed in the windows.
The Holiday Marketplace opens annually the day after Thanksgiving and closes at the end of December. Judging by the pace of the first weekend, Lione said, the season will be a success. Other vendors agreed.
Anne Dentino of Brooklin-based Leaf and Anna said sales over the first two days of her gift books and household, garden and kitchen items indicate this season will top last year’s, even though it’s two weeks shorter.
“It’s going very well,” she said. “People really support Small Business Saturday.”
“It’s been a steady day,” said Sue Stanley, who used to own Sagegrass Gallery in Bar Harbor. She was offering half-off jewelry, clothing, reclaimed wooden signs and wooden-wick candles along with a special price on wool hats.
“I’m looking forward to the next few weekends,” she said.
Lione said people recognize Small Business Saturday as a shopping event much like they do Black Friday.
“Yesterday was busier than expected,” he said Saturday. “Everybody’s smiling, so that’s a good thing.”
Outside the Holiday Marketplace, retailers’ experiences differed.
Robin Fowler-Pratt, co-owner of the Alpaca Experience on Main Street in Ellsworth, said she had a good day Saturday, thanks to a couple of customers who spent more than $2,000 while taking advantage of the store’s 15 percent discount. In general, however, foot traffic is slow in the store. Much of the business’s success is due to purchases made online by out-of-state buyers.
Fowler-Pratt said she would like to see local residents patronize the store and said collaboration among groups trying to promote downtown would be helpful.
Tim Torrey, owner of the Old Creamery Antique Mall on Hancock Street, said his shop had a great day, even though stores off Main Street don’t tend to attract the crowds, even during downtown events.
But, because the shop has been there for 20 years, it’s well established and attracts a steady stream of repeat customers, including regular visitors from out of state.
In Bucksport, BookStacks owner Andy Lacher said sales on Small Business Saturday were double that of Black Friday.
“It really works,” he said.
Customers at his store took advantage of discounts ranging from 20 to 40 percent off.
Peter Drinkwater, owner of the Winter Harbor 5&10, said the day was successful but he anticipates higher sales on the local Family Shopping Night, set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5.
Many of his Saturday customers were preparing for a return visit that night, when everything in his store will be 25 percent off.
“People come in, wander around the store and pick out what they’re going to come back for,” he said.
Family Shopping Night will also include a tree lighting, a visit from Santa, a chili supper, a craft fair and a prize raffle.
In Steuben, Tina Johnson, owner of Odds and Ends in Milbridge, was trying something new. She had a booth at the annual craft fair sponsored by the H.D. Moore Library, which takes place in conjunction with a fair across the street at the Ella Lewis Elementary School over Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
Johnson, who opened her store in July 2018, said she accomplished what she had intended.
“My goal was not so much sales. My goal is to get the word out,” she said. “We’re still new and new to retail so we don’t know how this will go.”