Retailers grow, give back on Small Business Saturday in and around Wilkes-Barre

i Nov 24th 2016

By , Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — People have told Jeanette Iorio Casterline her job seems “romantic.”

As owner of Iorio Jewelers in the Luzerne Bank Building on Public Square, Iorio Casterline said that whimsical notion can’t always be applied to small business owners like her.

“It’s a little bit romantic,” she said. “But you have to do everything just right.”

Iorio Casterline is one of dozens of independent business owners located downtown and beyond to be showcased during Small Business Saturday this Saturday. The event, which was introduced locally in 2013, is sponsored by the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, Diamond City Partnership and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce.

The national event, spearheaded by American Express since 2010, gives shoppers a chance to patronize local stores and restaurants after Black Friday, when big-box retailers heavily compete for customers by slashing prices.

For Iorio Casterline, whose father started Iorio Jewelers in its current location 52 years ago, Small Business Saturday is a way to thank the community, of which her family has been a part for decades.

“I’ve been (in the store) since I was 14,” she said. “My daughter was almost born here.”

Larry Newman, executive director of Diamond City Partnership, said Small Business Saturday is especially important for those businesses that have remained despite changing communities and markets.

“The retail landscape was very different 50 years ago,” he said. “It did not involve the internet. It did not involve online sales. It did not involve gigantic international discount retailers. … It’s a very cluttered, very noisy marketplace now.”

Iorio Casterline said she strives to make customers happy and emphasizes personal service. Sometimes the difference between a window-shopper and a sale depends on her memory. “I’ll say, ‘Oh your husband just bought you this a few months ago; here’s something that will match,’” she said.

She admits business in her industry has been “a little tougher” now more than ever, but through customer loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising, she still finds it difficult to schedule a day off.

“I love the downtown,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any other place I’d rather be.”

Newman said the event gives small retailers a chance to make their presence known, and to offer service and products larger stores can’t.

“It’s important to take every possible opportunity for our independent retailers to give them an opportunity to step into the spotlight,” he said. “Those independent retailers provide a level of customer service, carefully curated selection, and knowledge about their products that’s very difficult to find elsewhere.”

In addition to participating businesses’ discounts, the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Public Square will serve as a “home base” during the event, said Newman.

Details about the Kirby Center’s activities and a list of participating downtown businesses can be found online at this address: http://bit.ly/2gi6xGv.

Maria Genetti, who opened Bodyworks by Maria Genetti in the spring, also will have a space in the Kirby Center’s lobby. The licensed massage therapist will offer a $3 discount on a 10-minute chair massage for shoppers looking for a break between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. The regular cost for the service is $15.

“Everyone’s probably hectic and crazy after Black Friday,” she said. “It might be a nice little treat.”

Genetti operates her business out of the Best Western Genetti Hotel and Conference Center on Market Street, which is owned by her father, Gus. She said Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for new business owners like her to mix and mingle with fellow entrepreneurs and interact with new customers.

“I really think it’s good to support small businesses, especially mom-and-pop shops,” she said. “It creates more of a sense of community.”

Genetti also will offer a discount on gift cards during the event.

John Maday, president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, said Small Business Saturday is more than luring customers with discounts.

“For small businesses, they can showcase themselves on a special day during the holiday season, showing they’re unique,” he said. “(Business owners) get an opportunity to connect with a customer who hasn’t been around a while, to thank customers, and to make connections with a new customer.”

Shoppers can pick up maps at the F.M. Kirby Center that provide information about all the participating downtown and Greater Wilkes-Barre businesses. Newman said shoppers can collect “stamps” from each participating retailer to be entered into a drawing for a vacation package. Maps must be returned to the Kirby Center in order for customers to be entered into the drawing.

For the first time, the map will include businesses outside the downtown area, as organized by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber.