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Discovering big deals at small businesses

TVs are displayed Friday in the showroom at Olmstead's TV and Appliances on Wilson Street in Batavia.
TVs are displayed Friday in the showroom at Olmstead's TV and Appliances on Wilson Street in Batavia.

Gene Olmstead said on the weekend of Black Friday, he offers deals that are competitive even with big-box stores.

During a weekend in which Black Friday deals are a focus for many, local small businesses are offering plenty to draw customers, too. Saturday is designated as Small Business Saturday, and the deals aren't limited to that day, either.

This weekend, Olmstead's TV is running a sale on TVs that includes a gift card to a local restaurant. For every inch of the TV screen, customers get that many dollars to spend at Fantastico's Italian Restaurant in Batavia. For example, a 55-inch 1080p LED TV for $777 renders a $55 gift card. The sale goes through Sunday.

Olmstead, who owns the business, said he can match prices and TV models of any big-box store – plus, he does maintenance and service. And that, he said, is what sets his 66-year-old business apart from the big chains.

"[Small businesses] care about what they're doing," he said. "We have customers that go back three generations."

At The Little Traveler in Geneva, owner Mike Simon said he usually sees people trickle in on the morning of Black Friday. But this year, the store was crowded almost as soon as the doors opened at 10 a.m. He said while smaller businesses have a harder time competing on price, they can compete with superior service and distinctive selections.

"That's what brings people in," he said.

The Little Traveler has plenty of deals this weekend, including special giveaways with the purchase of certain jewelry items.

Simon said buying local has a ripple effect within the community.

"It allows us to give back to local charities and make the community what it is," he said.

Joyce Boone of Buffalo, N.Y., shopped at The Little Traveler on Friday with her aunt, Lynn Tuttle of St. Charles. Boone said it's a tradition to go shopping in downtown Geneva when Thanksgiving is celebrated in Illinois.

"These are shops that we don't have [in Buffalo]," Boone said.

Donna Chipp, owner of Donna's Jewelry in St. Charles, said the economy has been especially tough this year. She said her goal last year was to at least make enough money to cover her expenses, but it hasn't panned out that way so far this year.

She's hoping Saturday's Electric Christmas Parade will help boost business by drawing more people to the downtown area who might shop locally.

"It helps keep our downtown alive," she said. "It gets depressing when all you see is a downtown with closed stores. It's not a problem specifically with St. Charles – it's a problem everywhere. … I think it's vital to keep the heartbeat of the city going."

Her store is offering half off on all Donna Jewelry products, which make up about 70 percent of the inventory. Jewelry made by guest artists are 10 percent to 30 percent off this weekend.

An artist will be making custom silhouettes at Eliza Jane in St. Charles on Saturday starting at noon. Owner Megan Hernandez said that's a popular gift for grandchildren or children to give to their parents or grandparents. She said the event will go on during the Electric Christmas Parade.

It was Black Vinyl Friday at Kiss The Sky record store in Batavia. Owner Steve Warrenfeltz said while there's no special sale going on this weekend, his store is one of about 800 independent record stores that had limited edition albums available this weekend.

The albums, which include Incubus, Biz Markie and Big Brother and the Holding Company, will go fast this weekend, he said. Live bands played all day Friday at the shop to kick off the weekend.

Warrenfeltz is one of many local merchants who are participating in Plan!t Kane County's Cyber Monday event. He said he's offering a deal on a record player through the sale, which offers up to 50 percent off of retail prices starting at 7 a.m. Monday. The sale ends at midnight or until items run out.

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