Joanne Dudash

Joanne Dudash, of Boswell, checks out a piece of jewelry at the Bottle Works Gallery Shop during its Small Business Saturday shopping event.

Bottle Works’ director of advancement and operations Melody Tisinger grew up in Johnstown, and understands the importance of keeping money local.

To spotlight some of the many vendors in the area, Bottle Works, located in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood, held a Small Business Saturday Artisan Shopping event featuring nearly 20 art vendors, jewelers and more.

“I think the tapestry of the community is really showcased in the vendors that were present today,” Tisinger said. “These are all people who make up the community, who help support the community. Every person here cares about the community and building the economy, and they want to showcase the talent here.

“You don’t have to go to Pittsburgh,” she said. “It’s right here in your own backyard.”

The Friday after Thanksgiving has unofficially become the kick-off to the Christmas shopping season, but it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving that is being devoted by many to make an impact to the local economy.

Small Business Saturday, which began in 2010, is designed to drive customers to local stores during one of the busiest shopping periods of the year.

On hand for the Bottle Works shopping event was Sheepskin Shop owner Jill Witherell, of Johnstown. The local business owner, who is originally from Manhattan, New York, sells wool coats, scarves, hats, earmuffs and other accessories.

“It’s great to be able to do this locally,” Witherell said. “It’s nice to have a focus on local small business. Especially for those who don’t currently have a website.

“This is a great way for the local market to learn more about us.”

Witherell, who once held a local brick and mortar location, now finds that she does much of her business at events and festivals in and out of the area.

“I’ve got a good response today,” she said. “People are, and it might be surprising, interested in natural fiber, wood products, clay and pottery, as opposed to the synthetics you may find in department stores or online.

“And everything here is natural.”

Perusing the aisles of vendors on Saturday was Joanne Dudash, of Boswell. Dudash, who is a crafter herself, said she understands the importance of shopping local.

“It’s good to keep the money in Johnstown and support the local artisans,” she said. There’s a very nice selection here today. It’s really varied and diversified...really nice.”

About 25 miles north of Johnstown, Small Business Saturday was being promoted by the Ebensburg Main Street Partnership. This year, as a way to further encourage shopping small, the partnership sponsored a “Shop Small Contest” to local residents.

Residents were encouraged to shop from a list of several Ebensburg businesses for a chance to win one of five $25 gift cards to use at a local business.

“We are a community of small businesses and we want to do everything we can to help our small businesses succeed,” said Danea Koss, Ebensburg Borough Community Development Director. “We encourage everyone to support your local community by shopping small in Ebensburg this holiday season, and all throughout the year.

“When you shop small you’re not just supporting a small business, you’re boosting your local economy, supporting local jobs and families and keeping local businesses in business.”

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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