By Toni Pennello, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — “Shop small” and “shop local” are the themes of Small Business Saturday, and there are plenty of places to do just that in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The Midtown Village’s Holiday Pop Up Shops, where Christmas bargain-seekers can find items from local businesses all in one place, debuted Saturday.
One of the shops, 3GirlsOils, is owned and operated by Denise Ogurkis, who runs her business from her home in Harveys Lake. The shop has a selection of essential oils, diffusers and more.
Ogurkis takes shopping small and local very seriously.
“(Shopping) local, you’re putting bread on people’s table. You’re helping someone pay for dance lessons for their kids. You’re helping someone take a vacation that they haven’t been able to take in years because the parents are working,” she said.
“The more money (shoppers) dump into communities, we can keep little shops and restaurants and things like that in the communities,” added Joanna Gover, owner of Buka, a contemporary women’s clothing store in Shavertown who also has a Pop Up Shop.
“It may cost a little more money, but it’s worth it to keep some of these mom-and-pop shops alive. We’re losing a lot of them these days, but I do think it’s swinging back … a lot of people are supporting these small shops and hopefully continue to,” Gover noted.
She believes customer service sets her business apart.
“We know a lot of our customers, we build relationships with them,” she said. “I text people when special items come in, certain brands they like.”
The Pop Up Shops will be open 5 to 7 p.m. every Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Friday and Saturday through Dec. 16.
Saturday’s grand opening included a special appearance by the Times Leader’s mascot, the TL News Bear.
‘The day for you’
Meanwhile, over at the F.M. Kirby Center, Small Business Saturday was being celebrated with the annual Holiday Art Market, an event featuring the work of local artists for sale in the lobby of the theater. There was also an appearance by Santa Claus, performances by the Music Box Dinner Playhouse and the Gaslight Theater Company, a Christmas carol sing-a-long, a tree lighting and a screening of the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.”
“We started this three years ago,” said Anne Rodella, director of sales and marketing at the Kirby.
“We partnered with the the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, Diamond City Partnership and the Chamber (of Commerce), and really made a big effort to promote Small Business Saturday in downtown Wilkes-Barre with the stores,” she explained.
Rodella said she’s worked with Wilkes-Barre’s Third Friday Art Walk and knew several local artists from that experience.
“We decided to fill the lobby with those artists so you can shop for those things that you maybe can’t order online or get at a big department store. It’s a good use of our space,” she added. “We are a small business, we support small business, and we really like ‘Shop Local.’”
Rodella said the synergy of local businesses is what keeps them all afloat, along with community support.
“… You buy something up at Beehive, you can go have dinner at Rodano’s and then come pick up tickets at the Kirby Center.”
One of the artists selling work at the market was Billy Brandenburg, a Pittston native and resident of Wilkes-Barre.
Brandenburg’s collection of drawings and photography, as well as mixes of the two, are sold under the name “Inspired Slacker.” This was his second time at the market.
“You’re not gonna find this stuff in every store. I always like going to the little out-of-the-way places to get stuff,” he said of shopping for local art. “If you’re an art lover, and you like things that are one-of-a-kind, this is the day for you.”