Shop local

Promotional materials for Small Business Saturday sit on a table at the train depot in Morehead City ready to be distributed to participating businesses ahead of the locally focused retail shopping holiday, held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving. (Downtown Morehead City Inc. photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Black Friday deals may grab national headlines, but local business owners are getting ready for Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate small retailers and shop local.

Now in its 10th year, Small Business Saturday is held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the day after Black Friday, which tends to focus on larger retailers. The effort was launched in 2010 by American Express and has grown each year since then, the company says. In 2011, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the retail holiday.

As part of Small Business Saturday, organizations can sign up to become what’s known as a Neighborhood Champion to distribute promotional materials provided by American Express and help rally local businesses to participate in events. This year, Downtown Morehead City Inc. and the Small Business Center at Carteret Community College are the county’s two Neighborhood Champions.

Downtown Morehead City Inc. Executive Director Lisa Rueh said volunteers began distributing promotional materials, such as signs, balloons, bags and buttons, to participating businesses this week. She said she is excited to participate in Small Business Saturday as a Neighborhood Champion once again, and she urges shoppers to come out Saturday to show their support.

“We just encourage everybody to shop local and visit the local downtown retailers and spend their dollars locally,” she said. “…It’s important to support your small businesses because they give back so much to the community. Those are always the ones we call on for donations for fundraisers and sponsorships and it’s nice for people to give back. Plus, there’s just so many unique finds in the local stores.”

Ms. Rueh said Downtown Morehead City recently launched a new program called Downtown Dollars that can be used at a variety of downtown businesses. Shoppers can buy downtown dollars in increments of $10 and spend them at participating retailers, which are listed on the Downtown Morehead City website,

To help push the program, which is year-round but just getting on its feet, Ms. Rueh said five secret businesses will randomly give away $20 in downtown dollars to lucky shoppers on Small Business Saturday.

“It’s really kind of neat if you don’t know exactly what to get, then you can just get downtown dollars and spend them anywhere downtown,” she said. “…We’re excited about that, and the businesses were excited to get those out on Small Business Saturday.”

Leading up to Christmas, Ms. Rueh said Downtown Morehead City will be giving away $50 in downtown dollars every week to people who participate in social media contests. To get downtown dollars ahead of Small Business Saturday, Ms. Rueh said to visit the DMC website, call the train depot at 252-808-0440 or email her or Assistant Director Arrington Moore at

American Express says for every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., 67 cents goes back directly into the local economy. Further, since the effort began 10 years ago, consumers have spent more than $103 billion on Small Business Saturdays.

“We recognize the hardships faced by small business owners today and want to inspire people to take notice and Shop Small to support their communities on Small Business Saturday and beyond,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer at American Express. “Retail is changing, but local shops are the fabric of our communities, helping them to thrive in the future is part of our brand ethos and backing promise.”

Ms. Rueh said this year should be a particularly special Small Business Saturday because many area retailers were still closed after Hurricane Florence for the event last year. She said not only are the vast majority of businesses back open now, but several new businesses have also opened downtown in the past year.

“It will be a special year, things are looking good,” she said. “Things are hopping downtown, and the town is on its beautification kick. We’ve got lots of projects in the works so it’s an exciting time.”

Contact Elise Clouser at; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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