LIMA — In 2010, Small Business Saturday became nationally recognized, but Lima has been celebrating this holiday since 2004 when it partnered up with American Express.
Jed Metzger, the president and chief executive officer of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, believes Small Business Saturday is important because it is the economic engine for the community.
“We love when the larger companies come in, but when you look at over all the job creation most of it comes from small businesses,” said “That’s why its important for us to support our small businesses to make them viable so that we can sustain the community and the assets that we have here.”
According to the National Retail Federation, the majority of retailers are small businesses, and more than 98 percent of all retail companies have fewer than 50 employees. This year they predict that out of the 71 million U.S. consumers hoping to shop the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 76 percent will support Small Business Saturday.
In the Lima chamber, 84 percent of members have 50 employees or fewer, and 54 percent have 10 employees or less, Metzger said.
“We do cater quite a bit to some of the small businesses because that is who we represent,” he said. “Any opportunity that we have to where we can support small businesses we try to make sure that we do that.”
Alter Ego Comics is one of eight shops in downtown Lima participating in Small Business Saturday today. Owner Marc Bowker started his company as a home-based business more than 15 years ago and is now has a shop with unique collectible items that can’t be bought anywhere else.
He started his e-commerce store as a second job in 2003 because he wasn’t happy with the online comic book options. His online store offered high-end action figures and statues and collectibles from movies, TV shows and comic books. He tried offering single issue comic books, but it was not viable because he had to manually put each item on the website, and he wasn’t getting a return.
After 18 months, he quit his job to run his business full time with the intention of keeping his business home-based, but he quickly realized he wanted to have a community presence. In 2005 he opened up his first shop on Elizabeth Street, next to Kewpee. In 2009, they outgrew the space and moved a few blocks over to Main Street.
“I wanted to be involved and worked downtown at the Chamber of Commerce before I left to do my own thing,” he said.”I thought that downtown would be good location for the shop.”
Over the years the shop has participated in various community events, such as Free Comic Book Day and the Halloween Comic Fest. During one Saturday a month, the store hosts a craft day, where kids and their families can create crafts together for free. Bowker values the importance of giving back.
“Running a comic shop definitely isn’t easy,” he said. “With Small Business Saturday coming up, I realize that we wouldn’t be here without the support of the local community.”
On Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. the store is offering 25 percent off of Funko POPs, or customers can buy three and get one free, 50 percent off recent back issues, and buy one, get one free on half-off graphic novels.
Lima isn’t the only community that will be participating in Small Business Saturday. Ottawa and Wapakoneta are also participating.
People who are looking to shop in Ottawa can find discounts at the Red Pig Inn, Olive Tree Boutique, Beckman Jewelers, Revitalize, Tony’s, TrueValue, Town and County Flowers and Wannemacher Jewelers.
The Wapakoneta Chamber of Commerce is giving out free shopping totes with coupons for people looking to shop in town.
“Small businesses are the nuts and bolts of any community, and we do need to support and sustain them,” Metzger said. “It only makes us stronger as a community.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews