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Start holidays by shopping local
Small Business Saturday biggest day of year for local merchants
Shopping at Town Square Olive Oil
Leah Barnett, of Covington, samples different oils and vinegars at locally owned and operated Town Square Olive Oil. (Taylor Beck | The Covington News)

COVINGTON, Ga. — One year ago, an estimated 110 million consumers spent a record $19.6 billion across the U.S. on Small Business Saturday, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since, the nation has faced the brute force of a pandemic that has strangled the economy through shutdowns and various restrictions in response to COVID-19.

Because of the pandemic, the future of many local small businesses hinge on a successful Small Business Saturday.

In Covington, Town Square Olive Oil is one of several businesses hoping for a great turnout this weekend. Owner Cindy Webb Mask said sales over the holiday season account for about one-third of her annual revenue — some businesses rely on holiday sales for 50% of their annual revenue.

“Local small businesses are the lifeblood of this country,” Mask said. “We put sweat, hard work and our heart into everything we do … We’re not like big box stores who could care less if you come shop at their store.”

Mask said her store had been “incredibly fortunate” throughout the pandemic. Because it sells food, Town Square Olive Oil was deemed an essential business, so it has remained open for business the entire time. However, Mask said there came a point when she had to furlough employees and run the store on her own. After a while, she started providing a curbside pickup option, as well as delivery options for their products.

She said it was thanks to the loyalty of her customers and the uptick in tourism that helped keep her in business.

“We definitely saw a downturn during lockdown,” Mask said. “But tourism made a huge impact and loyalty of customers kept us going.”

Besides getting a quality customer experience, shoppers are encouraged to spend their money locally at small businesses like Town Square Olive Oil because it benefits the community.

“For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to our community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures,” Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Harper said. “Compare that to only $43 that would stay here if that $100 was spent at a national chain store is the biggest reason to ‘Shop Local’ and ‘Keep the Cheer here’ in Newton County (this) holiday season!”

In an effort to help promote shopping small and spending money at locally owned businesses, the city of Covington recently passed a resolution to allow shoppers to carry alcoholic beverages as they shop around the Covington Square on Nov. 28 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Mask said she is looking forward to the rush of Small Business Saturday.

“Personally I just enjoy the customer interaction,” she said. “It will just be nice to share the joy and just be with people after all we’ve been through this year.”

Small Business Saturday is a nationwide initiative that began in 2010 to push people toward shopping locally for the holidays.