The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 23, 2012

Small businesses enjoy a big day

Dave Sutor

JOHNSTOWN — For small business owners and their customers, Black Friday is not about waiting in long lines for doors to open at midnight, the latest must-have, high-tech gadget or rampant commercialization.

Rather, for proprietors, it is a low-key beginning to the holiday shopping season when they hope to bring in enough money to keep operations running throughout the next year. Customers go to the local shops in order to find personal gifts for loved ones and to support owners and workers who are their neighbors and friends.

“In my opinion, that’s the only way to do it,” said Precious Metals & Diamond Co. owner David Pentrack. “I absolutely believe in shopping locally. I personally do. Very few things do I buy online or out of town. I try to support everybody local.”

Pentrack estimates two-thirds of his annual sales come in the last two months of the year.

Precious Metals & Diamond Co., at 1011 Eisenhower Blvd., sells jewelry, ranging from casual $100 rings to big-ticket merchandise that costs in the neighborhood of $10,000.

Other businesses concentrate on less-expensive products.

The Outhouse, located at 2431 Bedford St., offers candy-making supplies, greeting cards, gourmet popcorn, knickknacks and Pittsburgh Steelers items, along with renting bounce houses, karaoke machines and chocolate fountains.

“We’re a good destination for stocking stuffers and decorations. ... We’re not a destination gift store obviously, but that’s not what we do. We’re a party store, and everything that you’re going to need for your holiday you’re going to find here,” said Lloyd Rager, who co-owns The Outhouse with his wife, Kelly Rager.

Some local businesses, including Zepka Harley-Davidson, Music Haven and Brew It Yourself, appeal to small, but passionate, customer bases.

Brew It Yourself, a Loretto-based company, handles supplies for making beer and wine at home. Although it is a niche market, individuals interested in home brewing often become engrossed in the hobby. “If you’re going to get a kit as a gift, it really has to be a labor of love,” said Jason Krug, son of Brew It Yourself owner Ed Krug.

Music Haven, located at 659 Lamberd Ave., has been selling instruments and accessories since 1960.

Many of those guitars and basses have appeared as gifts under trees on Christmas morning.

“Holiday sales are a big percentage of the business,” said Music Haven owner Ray Purazo. “It does start a little bit before Black Friday with the layaways and so forth, but, after Black Friday, it does pick up for the holidays.”

While all those 12-year-old future rock ’n’ roll stars can start strumming their Fenders right out of the wrapping paper, some gifts sit on a shelf, at least for a little while. Zepka Harley-Davidson, 960 Eisenhower Blvd., sells motorcycles and riding gear, which, given the region’s harsh winter conditions, do not get used for a few months.

“As the weather turns cool and the holidays come upon us, people are buying to gear up for the next season, which hopefully will be early spring,” said Zepka marketing and events coordinator Jan Yingling. “They’ll be ready to go out and ride, and not only have their bikes dressed and ready to go, but they too will have the appropriate riding gear to start the season with.”

Some communities market their small businesses as a collective group.

The Ebensburg Main Street Program promotes stores in the borough’s central business district where shoppers can purchase antiques, pets, quilts, jewelry, candy and other items for the holidays.

“You can shop for all kinds of gifts or you can shop for decorations,” said Ebensburg Community Development Director Shawna Drop.

Nationally, American Express has developed Small Business Saturday in recent years. The promotion is designed to get people to support their local  brick-and-mortar small businesses today.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.