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West central Minnesota small businesses hoping to cash in this shopping weekend

For the 11th year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is being promoted as Small Business Saturday, a day shoppers are urged to shop at small, independent and local retailers for that special gift. Small businesses from around the area are preparing for what they hope is both a positive shopping day and a return to some normalcy after the past 20 pandemic-marked months.

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Mac Hendrickx of Hex Clothing and Arianna Dobmeier of D&H Designs are celebrating the grand opening of their pop up shop at Uptown Willmar on Thanksgiving weekend, giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the biggest shopping weekend of the year including Small Business Saturday. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — While Thanksgiving is for family and food and Black Friday is usually for finding big deals at the traditional box stores, for more than a decade the Saturday after Thanksgiving has shifted the focus to the small and independent retailers found in cities and small towns across the country.

Established by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday has become one of the largest shopping days in America and internationally. According to a survey from American Express, last year $19.8 billion was spent on Small Business Saturday, a record even amid the pandemic. The year before, in 2019, the estimated spending was $19.6 billion.

Both the United States Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized Small Business Saturday with approved resolutions several times and even Minnesota has commemorated the day with a proclamation in 2019.

For local businesses in the region, Small Business Saturday gives them a chance to be front and center during the busy holiday shopping season.

"In light of everything that has happened, it is more important than ever to support local," said Ken Warner, president of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce .

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A grand opening of a small business

Arianna Dobmeier, co-founder of D&H Designs, on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, lays out pieces she and her mother created for the new pop-up store in the Uptown Willmar mall. The duo started the business earlier this year and focus on handmade home décor and fashion accessories. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune All the clothing sold at Hex Clothing was either designed by owner Mac Hendrickx — shown Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, at the Uptown Willmar mall — or he did the screen printing on the shirts. He likes to offer clothes in all sizes and works to offer high-quality pieces to his customers. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Hex Clothing of Clara City and new home décor and accessories business D & H Designs are not only celebrating Black Friday and Small Business Saturday this weekend, but also the grand opening of their new pop-up shop at the Uptown Willmar mall. The store will be open seven days a week, following normal mall hours, through the holiday shopping season.

"I'm excited to get going," said Arianna Dobmeier, co-founder of D&H Designs, who owns the business with her mother, Shanna Hofland. "I think this is going to go really well."

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At a pop-up shop operating during the 2021 holiday shopping season in the Uptown Willmar mall, shoppers of D & H Designs will be able to find a variety of wood Christmas ornaments and other décor. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

D&H Designs offers a variety of handmade décor and accessories ranging from wood ornaments and signs to jewelry and key chains. Hex Clothing, owned by Mac Hendrickx since 2016, offers clothing items that are either designed or screen printed by Hendrickx. He has a storefront in Clara City while also selling his goods at various arts and craft shows across the upper Midwest.

"It started as a hobby and morphed into a job," Hendrickx said, who also works with his family's restaurant business. The family is building the Subway on First Street South in Willmar. "You're very fortunate to change a passion into what you really do."

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Hex Clothing, based in Clara City and also operating in a pop-up store in the Uptown Willmar mall for the 2021 holiday season, offers a mix of clothing styles, including shirts, sweaters and jean jackets. Many have a local or state theme such as state graphics. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

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The fact that they are opening their new venture on the busiest shopping weekend of the year is a happy coincidence but one they are thrilled to take advantage of. Both Friday and Saturday, the store will have special deals and drawings, as well as refreshments for customers as they peruse the store's offerings.

"It is a great weekend to be open," Hendrickx said.

Keeping local vibrant

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The 523 Trading Post is shown Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, inside Dirk's Furniture, a nearly 110-year-old business in Olivia, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 212 and Ninth Street. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

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As the name based on the prefix of Olivia telephone numbers implies, a lot of product at the 523 Trading Post is Olivia-centric. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

At Dirk's Furniture in Olivia , a century-old institution in the small farming community, it is hoped Saturday will bring a bit of normalcy to this holiday season. In addition to the furniture store, Dirk's has also opened the 523 Trading Post , a home décor and gift space that specializes in products made locally and in the United States. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, the plan is to offer samplings of some of the food products sold and to introduce shoppers to what is on offer at the store. There were also be warm apple cider available.

"We feel we can do a little bit of that," said Ross Okins, of Dirk's Furniture and the 523 Trading Post. "Getting back to a normal thing."

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Ross Okins, shown Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, at Dirk's Furniture and the 523 Trading Post in Olivia, is ready to welcome Small Business Saturday shoppers. The Trading Post will have samples of artisan food stuffs and other refreshments for visitors. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

While Dirk's Furniture and 523 Trading Post can't compete with the big box stores in terms of prices or huge discounts, they do offer their shoppers a more traditional main street shopping experience, Okins said, and also benefit the larger Olivia community.

"It supports the local community, keeping those dollars in the local community," Okins said.

Hex Clothing and D&H Designs, and many similar businesses, survive off of people shopping local, even if the businesses have an online component.

Dobmeier said she believes it is important for stores such as hers and Hendrickx's to remain open, as it gives customers a chance to actually touch and experience the items, unlike just viewing them on a computer or phone screen. The store is also providing new life to the mall, which has faced many difficulties the last several years. Small Business Saturday helps draw those customers in.

"It means a lot that we have a day dedicated to us, to support us," Dobmeier said.

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The 523 Trading Post likes to specialize in products either made in Minnesota or the United States. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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