Each Small Business Saturday, Linda Combs heads to downtown Harrisonburg with her visiting daughter, Emily Ryan.

Together, the duo hit many of the small shops, including one of their favorites, Lady Jane, a home decor and gift shop located on South Main Street.

They also enjoy browsing Agora Downtown Market, a collection of small businesses under one roof.

“This is a tradition for us,” said Combs, 66, of Harrisonburg, adding that she prefers shopping Saturday compared to hitting the big-box stores on Black Friday. “Today is the day we see what type of bargains we can find.”

Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 by American Express as a shopping alternative to support local stores, which compete against big-box stores and online retailers.

American Express estimates that for every dollar spent locally, 67 cents stays local.

Jeslyn Stiles, director of marketing for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, said supporting local stores is critical to maintaining a vibrant downtown.

“Shopping local is very important for the community,” Stiles said. “When you shop at a big-box store, not much, if any, of that money goes back to your community.”

She said downtown Harrisonburg has about 40 retailers.

“We have an excellent variety of stores downtown, everything from jewelry and clothing to home-brewing supplies and bicycles,” Stiles said. “There’s something for everybody.”

Kathy Hurst, co-owner of Heartworn Vintage in the Agora Downtown Market, said Small Business Saturday has always been a success for the store.

It’s now in its third holiday season.

“We thrive on some of these big holidays,” she said. “It’s always a really good day for us.”

While she does well on the holiday, she makes sure to return the favor by shopping small, too.

“I like to give all of the local shops my money,” she said.

Harrisonburg resident Lee Ann Jackson, 56, and her husband, Tom Scanlan, 61, shopped at Agora Saturday morning looking for a few Christmas gifts for friends and family.

“We love to shop at small businesses, especially those in Harrisonburg,” Jackson said. “We love what’s happening in Harrisonburg, and we want to support it.”

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6267 or pdelea@dnronline.com. Follow Pete on Twitter @pdelea_DNR

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