Tiny Turnout in Midtown for Small Business Saturday



Ashley Holmes (l.) assists Kylie Cobb with her search for new frames. Photo: N.G. Onuoha.

Looking into a cosmetic mirror, Kylie Cobb adjusted and examined the frames, occasionally turning to her parents for opinions, hoping to find a pair she felt was comfortable.  Picking up a pair of Fendi frames, she said “I may get this one,” at Manhattan Eyeworks’ 50 percent discount for Small Business Saturday.

Sponsored by American Express, Small Business Saturday is an annual event encouraging shoppers to support neighborhood businesses. The event, launched in 2010, was created as an incentive to increase consumer traffic for small business owners–a group hit hard by a fluctuating economy.  According to a November 2012 small business economic optimism survey made public by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), small business owners reported poor sales as their top economic problem. With a $25 credit for American Express card holders who purchased products at participating businesses, owners hoped the day would be a lucrative one, but in Midtown, some said it produced little results.

“I posted a message on Facebook about the 50 percent off eyewear and sunglasses,” said Jennifer Morrow, a sales associate at Manhattan Eyeworks, on Ninth Avenue between 48th and 49th streets. “But it hasn’t been a busy day.” Morrow,24, has worked at the small eyewear and optometrist office for six years and said that this was the first time the business participated in Small Business Saturday. She believed the slow day was largely due to the cold weather.

At 3 p.m., Cobb was their first Small Business Saturday customer. “I get my eyes checked here,” said Cobb, 28, who is a public school teacher living in the area. “We were just walking in the neighborhood, [and] my mom told me about [the promotion].”

“I try to support whenever I can,” she added.”I’m all for the small business mentality.”

Kyotofu NYC. Photo: N.G. Onuoha

At Kyotofu on Ninth Avenue and 49th Street, the staff had also relied on social media to promote before Saturday. The cozy Japanese desert restaurant offered a free cupcake and official American Express Small Business Saturday tote bag to customers who checked in at the restaurant using Four Square, but by mid-afternoon, the restaurant’s manager said no one had taken advantage of the offer. “We have none so far,” said Jeff Cobb, 33. “Most times things get busy around here by dinner time, 7 p.m. But we may keep [the promotion] going till [Sunday].”

“Shop Small” pins in entrance of Kyotofu. Photo:N.G. Onuoha.

Hours earlier,  Jay Gurewitsch, the owner of Arcadia Spa & Home, watched his first Small Business Saturday customer swipe her American Express card. For Gurewitsch, distinguishing between the event day traffic and average Saturday traffic was difficult. “I wouldn’t know which customers are coming into the store to look around because of Small Business Saturday,” said Gurewitsch, 43. “It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving; it’s Christmas season now so we have a lot of people coming in.”

The small shop, located on 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, sells handmade products from artisans around the world and, according to its sidewalk sign, the “best holiday cards in Chelsea.”

Outside of Arcadia Spa & Home. Photo: N.G. Onuoha.