At Valley Junction, parking spots were difficult to come by. People had to make way for each other on the busy sidewalks and lines formed in front of cash registers Saturday.
People were anxious to get their hands on gifts they say aren’t easy to come by at the big box stores.
“The family is from Kansas so we bring them special Iowa stuff. We buy food, wines, and unique gifts that are made here,” said shopper Brett Spohr.
Gifts unique to Iowa is what Kelly Sharp, the owner of Heart of Iowa, specializes in.
She’s owned the store since 2010, buying it just in time for the first Small Business Saturday.
Sharp said the event brought in a few extra customers back then, but continues to make a big impact on her sales.
“I think it’s grown every year. I think it’s great that it’s publicized,” Sharp said.
That publicity doesn’t help just one day each year.
Sharp is confident that once she gets the customers in the door, her homemade goods and family friendly service will get people to come back all year long.
“People would come in the store and say we’re supporting small businesses. This is why we’re here. We’re glad you’re here,” said Sharp.
Jim Miller, the executive director for the Historic Valley Junction Foundation said building that customer loyalty is what helps local businesses swim at a time it is so easy to sink.
“If they’re not supported, they won’t be here. If people don’t support them, they won’t exist,” said Miller.
In 2012, shoppers spent $5.5 billion at local businesses on Small Business Saturday.