Carol Brames of Monroeville normally just drives through Fort Wayne, but the Holly Trolley gave her and granddaughter Lily a chance to visit several local retailers for Small Business Saturday.
“It’s nice with the trolley,” said Carol Brames as the two headed into Connolly’s Do it Best Hardware, 1642 N. Wells St.
American Express started the event nationally nine years ago as a way to get people off the big chain websites and into their local stores.
“To me, Small Business Saturday celebrates the local entrepreneurs who work so hard to make our community a better place to live,” Jami Thomas, director of investor services at Greater Fort Wayne Inc., said in a news release. “Small businesses create jobs and bring their own local flavor to their neighborhoods.”
Since Brames and her granddaughter wanted to see the Festival of Trees at Embassy Theatre, the Holly Trolley gave them a chance to explore stores they normally wouldn’t visit.
Brames dug into her shopping bag to show the knitted Muk Luks socks they had bought at G.I. Joe’s Army Surplus, 1638 N. Wells St.: one pair for each of them and a third for a friend of Brames’.
Despite the rain, retailers saw a steady pace of shoppers for Small Business Saturday.
“It brings in people who might normally not stop here,” said G.I. Joe’s employee Mike Wagoner.
Families moved among the Muk Luks, costing $9.95 before a special Black Friday weekend 20 percent discount. Black package MREs (meals ready to eat), perfect for hiking, electrical outages or an apocalypse, cost $5. Though a package said “beef stew,” each meal also includes a snack and dessert, Wagoner said.
In addition to military gear, the store has other mainstream items, such as camping equipment.
Across the street, Donovan Badillo’s StitchPunxx Trailoring, 1627 N. Wells St., is usually closed Saturdays but he opened for the special event – and appeared to get some new clients. Badillo, who spent 15 years managing tailoring and men’s clothing shops, started the business 4 years ago. He has a lot of military and police clientele who need patches sewn but does other work on their uniforms.
It seems that police officers don’t want to look bulky in their bulletproof vests.
“They want (their vests) to be fitted at the waist,” he said.
However, he does a wide range of tailoring.
“A lot of shops won’t do leather while I can. I’m multifaceted.” So much so that he destroyed a brand-new Singer sewing machine in six months. He’s now equipped with his mother-in-law’s 1977 Kenmore along with a leather machine from the 1900s that he’s used to sew through 18 layers of denim.
His work includes motorcycle vests, chaps, boat sails and covers and an old barber’s chair he had in a corner.
Matt Jones, who performs roles as story tellers including Charles Deam, a Wells County pharmacist and botanist who became Indiana’s first state forester, said he’d likely switch from using a Dupont area tailor to StitchPunxx, especially because he lives nearby.
Downtown, Coney Island’s pop-up holiday shop is back for a second year. New items next door to the restaurant, 131 W. Main St., include a deck of cards ($8), PopSocket for cellphones and keychain ($5 each), pint glasses (2 for $20) and long-sleeve T-shirts ($25 for S-XL and $30 for 2 and 3XL). They also have “Fort Wayne Through Time,” a then-and-now look at Fort Wayne buildings and architecture by Randolph L. Harter and Daniel A. Baker selling for $25.
The shop will be open until the first week of January.
Julie Wall, owner of The Hedge, 1016 Broadway, saw a lot of traffic as shoppers looked at dinosaur and butterfly wing earrings and prints.
“I come from a long line of family businesses,” Wall said. “It’s in our blood.”
She’s been enjoying her downtown location for four years after spending 2 years as Hedgehog Press Artistic Print Shop on Columbia Avenue.
She not only benefits from customers shopping local stores, but she passes it on.
“All the money I make here, I spend here,” she said.