PORTLAND, Ore. — There's been a big push to shop local this year, more it seems than in years past. Small Business Saturday and the unofficial kickoff to holiday shopping happened over the weekend, bringing with it an uptick for some locally-owned small businesses.
Lluvia Merello and her business partner Chance Starr own Indigenous Come Up, a small business that specializes in arts, crafts and jewelry all designed and made by Indigenous people.
Merello said during the pandemic, it’s been tough to adjust from in-person, market booth sales, to having a good online presence. She said sales have been slow.
“One-hundred percent everything came to a screeching halt for several months,” said Merello.
But this past weekend, with Small Business Saturday and many people starting their holiday shopping, she saw an increase in sales. An event held by her nonprofit Portland Indigenous Marketplace on Black Friday also helped.
“This last weekend was phenomenal,” Merello said.
She said she started the nonprofit after wanting to give other Indigenous people an opportunity to sell their own products.
It wasn't just Merello's business that got a bump in sales. Anna Vasquez makes custom jewelry, wedding rings and engagement rings through her business Nested Yellow Jewelry Co.
For her, business has been steady throughout the pandemic, but the weekend brought happiness not only because of her birthday, but also because of the added customers.
“I saw an uptick with the sales...I did see a lot more inquiries, a lot more activity on the site,” said Vasquez.
Meantime, Charles Huynh, the owner of Pinky on Northwest 23rd Avenue in Portland, said his store saw steady support all weekend with people careful to stay socially distant in his store, while consciously spending more money at local shops.
“We had our highest sales weekend ever," said Ash Cintas, the founder and CEO of City Shoppe. "We had our highest daily sales and we had our highest sales for the amount of vendors who received sales."
The website started in September and is an online marketplace where people can shop local. About 150 Oregon vendors are selling products on the site, which isn't charging any fees until 2021 for its businesses.
“We want all the money to go the small businesses since they’ve been pretty impacted these last nine months,” Cintas said.
She said the website also saw people sending gifts for Thanksgiving in lieu of traveling to a big family gathering.
“Connecting with your family, even if you can’t physically be there, is a nice touch,” said Cintas.
All those sales mean a lot to small business owners. For some, they could be a lifeline to continue operating into 2021. Business owners said they hope people continue to think local as they continue shopping for holiday gifts.
“They’re [shoppers are] acquiring gifts that are meaningful, that are coming from local shops that they adore love and support, and that just transcends to the gift and the moment you give and receive it,” said Vasquez.
In addition to the monetary support, when it comes to Indigenous businesses in particular, Merello said there’s even more meaning in buying local.
She said cultural appropriation is real and it's having a negative impact on Indigenous communities. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, cultural appropriation is, "the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture." In this case, Merello is talking about corporations that may produce a product that reinforces stereotypes, while also profiting.
“Not only is that painful because it’s often not accurate, [but] that money is not going into Indigenous communities...the profit is being made off our cultures and experiences,” said Merello.
She said there’s also an element of sharing their culture with others, if people choose to spend their dollars on locally-made products.
“It's putting value on our arts and crafts,” said Merello.
“It's knowing somebody cares enough to purchase the item and gives...our community a big boost and it makes each maker feel something,” she said.
Merello said another event featuring Indigenous makers will be held on Dec. 12. You can visit the Portland Indigenous Marketplace website or Facebook page for more details.
If you’re looking for resources that have lists of local businesses, you can visit the Shop Small PDX website’s business directory. You can also peruse Oregon-made products on the City Shoppe website.