Mayor Michael B. Hancock shopped small this weekend as he perused two shops in Cherry Creek North to observe Small Business Saturday, the commerce holiday created by American Express to “encourage people across the country to support small, local businesses.”
The mayor, along with congresswoman Diana DeGette, began his day at the swanky new Halcyon hotel. Then, the two went for a stroll to pop into local businesses Gnat Jewelers and Show of Hands, a handmade gift shop.
Show of Hands co-owner Mandy Moscatelli said the special day was an enormous boost to sales, incomparable to regular business days and at least triple the business of their Black Friday traffic, a day when Cherry Creek was already abuzz with shoppers.
Meanwhile, across town in the Cole neighborhood, it was less than business as usual for Juan Garcia in his corner store.
“It’s been pretty slow, the last two days,” he said.
Garcia has never heard of Small Business Saturday and that seems to be true of many of the business owners nearby. Though Garcia was the only local owner to go on record about it, five other business owners and managers in the surrounding blocks said they were unfamiliar with the concept.
Garcia is more used to having people come by to inquire about buying the building, though he still has a few more years left on his lease. In a fast-growing neighborhood like Garcia’s, the all-too-familiar story of rising rent looms large:
“There’s a lot of change here,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
On one hand, Small Business Saturday could help boost stability for a business like Garcia’s. On the other hand, Garcia’s shop seems to be engrained in the local community, which perhaps lends a kind of security itself. As he talks about his business, customers whom he greets by name stream in and out.
As it turns out, maintaining space is a worry even for shops like Moscatelli’s Show of Hands, which has persisted now for 35 years.
“We’re lucky that we’re in a neighborhood with a lot of small businesses,” she said, “so there’s a lot of support.”
But why has that level of support breached one neighborhood and not another?
The answer could lie in the city’s prioritization of certain kinds of spending. Merchants like Moscatelli and hotels like Halcyon perhaps better attract that potentially-returning visitor. If that shopper is on a business trip, that shopper is much more valuable.
A study on Mile High tourism in 2015 found that “the biggest spenders by far are business and marketable leisure visitors, who spent $435 and $328 per person.” Compare that to “people visiting friends and relatives,” who “each spent just $246 while in Denver,” and it might begin to make sense that initiatives like Small Business Saturday are aimed to capture the densest source of dollars.