As many Long Islanders surf the web, swarm malls and sweep through big-box stores during the holiday shopping season, small businesses in Oceanside and Island Park are giving residents a reason to shop locally instead.
The Island Park Chamber of Commerce reminded its social media followers to support local stores on Small Business Saturday last month and, more recently, the Oceanside Chamber filled its Facebook page with news and deals from area hotspots.
Still, competition can be fierce. Sales on Cyber Monday — which fell on Nov. 29 this year — increased 12.1 percent over the prior year, to $3.45 billion, according to Adobe Digital Insights. That’s why, one of the main jobs of the chamber is to remind shoppers that the community benefits from spending locally, and urge them to avoid simply browsing for gifts on Amazon, according to Dr. Adam Kritzberg, a chiropractor in Oceanside and chamber vice president. “It makes the most amount of sense just to go out and support the community,” Kritzberg said.
Doris Gralitzer, owner of Doris the Florist, who was named “Small Business Person of the Year” by the Island Park Business and Residential Chamber at October’s Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce breakfast, offered that conventional advertising isn’t her game. Rather, she hosts fundraisers and donates to local groups as a way to connect to the community. “To me, it’s a win-win. It helps me, it helps them and it keeps it all local,” Gralitzer said.
There is a boost in sales during the week or two leading up to Christmas, said Gralitzer, who has been in the industry for 32 years and has owned the shop on Long Beach Road for a decade. Her store offers flowers and plants, fruit and gourmet baskets, holiday centerpieces and other gifts.
“I find that the people are very loyal,” Doris said, recalling the many locals who come in for wedding flowers. “It’s not everywhere you can find a small town, you know? It still feels like Mayberry.”
Though Gralitzer likes giving customers more “bang for their buck,” small businesses in other industries cannot always offer products at the same price as other large stores that buy in bulk.
“I actually had some woman come in and ask me the price of a candy,” said Joan Cohen, owner of Hope’s Land of Candy, which sits about a mile down the street from the florist. “When I told her, she said, ‘Twenty dollars for a pound of candy!?’ and she stormed out.”
To stay competitive, Cohen relies on offering customers unique treats that cannot be found in Walmart, Target and CVS, including holiday-themed baskets, custom chocolates and gingerbread houses. The store is lined with stocking stuffers and mimics an old-time soda shop with its wide array of milkshakes and fizzy drinks.
During Black Friday, often considered the start of the holiday season, the candy store gave discounts on all black items, including licorice and dark chocolate. The following day, Cohen said she celebrated Small Business Saturday by offering customers 15 percent off on all items in the store.
“I think that more people are more willing to shop local, especially people in Island Park, because of [Hurricane] Sandy,” said Cohen, who opened her doors in 2014. “[They’re] trying to support local businesses and … get the village and the town up and running.”
Community outreach is what gives small businesses the edge over other larger competitors, according to Sami Saatchi, owner of SVS Fine Jewelry in Oceanside. The now 5,000 square-foot store on Long Beach Road, which Saatchi said offers a larger selection of brand-name jewelry than most department stores, got its start in 2003 as two booths in an Island Park flea market. It has made its name through building relationships and friends in town that trust the service and product, Saatchi added.
“We’re about giving back because we’ve been supported, and [the residents] have helped us get successful,” Saatchi said. “We’re, after all, nothing without the community.”
Earlier this month, SVS Jewelry hosted a Ladies Night, an annual event that featured $10,000 in prizes. The event doubled as a toy drive for the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
The store has continued community outreach, including holding a fundraiser for Skudin Surf, a Long Beach surf school that offers lessons to wave-riders of all abilities, as well as sponsoring August’s Long Beach International Film Festival.
Saatchi said to give back, the store has bought jerseys for the Oceanside Little League for the last three years. “It’s the community support,” Saatchi said, “and people shopping in our stores that allow us to do stuff like that.”