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Wed., Oct. 7
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‘Unchained’ for the day


SACKETS HARBOR — Connie L. Nicolette says there’s nothing out of the ordinary about holding a customer’s child. It’s what makes owning a small business so wonderful.

“That interaction — my customers become my friends,” she explained Saturday while holding a friend’s toddler. “You miss the interaction of really wonderful people when you shop online.”

Ms. Nicolette, owner of Handmaiden’s Garden, 117 W. Main St., was one of several owners of small businesses open for Sackets Harbor Unchained.

According to Sackets Harbor Chamber of Commerce president Cheryl M. Payne, Unchained has been a staple in the community long before American Express’ Small Business Saturday began in 2010.

“The American Bookseller Association started Unchained America and at that time only three communities in the country participated,” said the owner of Calla Lillies at 118 West Main St. “The idea was that one day before Black Friday weekend — because small businesses can’t compete that weekend — they would set up a Saturday for non-shopping at chain stores; to shop local.”

Sackets Harbor was one of those first three communities to participate. Though the program has dwindled under Small Business Saturday, locals say the event still thrives in the village.

“The community bought into this right from the very beginning,” said Ms. Payne, who has combined the event into an open house for her gift shop. “It has become the holiday kickoff, so each business does something special.”

One of the big draws at Calla Lillies is the chain of discounts. Purple and green construction paper is wound together in a chain, each link containing a different discount or special gift. Discounts could range from 10 percent to 50 percent, or a free item. One such item is a glass advertising local businesses. The businesses have QR codes on their ad which will bring visitors an additional discount when they return.

Ms. Nicolette was giving away one free item with a customer’s purchase. Items varied depending on what was bought. Down the street Ms. Nicolette’s husband, Francis J., offered a 25 percent discount on merchandise at Tea Thyme, 203 W. Main St. The deals are a draw, but for some shoppers it’s bigger than the savings.

“It’s nice to have something for the community; the taxpayers like to be appreciated,” said one customer who called herself Cora.

“I missed it last year, I don’t know why, I just did, and this year I was not going to,” added Irene R. Busler, who has shopped during Unchained almost every year since it began. “You get people who come in all year but it’s extra special when it’s Unchained. I just got back from Kansas and I want to send my daughter some Sackets memorabilia.”

The Arts Association of Northern New York, housed at 119 W. Main St., had no trouble opening despite wrapping up its season last week. The group hosted a handmade-only craft fair to highlight the creativity of local vendors.

Even some businesses that are closed during the off-season, such as A New Attitude Boutique, 201 W. Main St., opened up for the day and intend to offer discounts for Small Business Saturday as well. That day, Nov. 30, Calla Lillies will have hourly discounts, Ms. Payne said.

“I think the most important thing is to let people know that Sackets Harbor is open year-round. We have our own special events through the holidays, but we’re even open through the winter ... people think we close up (in the off season), but we don’t,” said Ms. Payne.

While most businesses in downtown Sackets Harbor plan to participate, the big customer appreciation day is Sackets Harbor Unchained.

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