by Shawn Chitniss

BURLINGAME (KPIX) — Burlingame business owners said Small Business Saturday successfully brought in more customers as the holiday season begins. They also said that gains they’ve seen in 2021 — although better than 2019 for some stores — still do not make up for the losses of 2020.

“Customers are coming in. They are not only buying one item or two, they’re buying many items,” said John Kevranian, owner of Nuts For Candy. “Many of our customers are having difficult times finding products so we’re doing well because of that. We have full inventory, we’re stocked up for the holidays.”

As the president of the Broadway Burlingame Business Improvement District, Kevranian helps 100 members work together to keep their community thriving with locally-owned shops. His store was closed for 74 days at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Last year and half has been difficult but our business — we’re doing really well. We’re doing better than pre-pandemic,” he said.

While Nuts for Candy has benefited from supply chain issues as a store able to compete with a full inventory, others say it was a challenge to get all the items they wanted this year in their shop.

Pot-Pourri has been in operation for more than two decades on Broadway.

“It’s been such a hard event for small retail businesses. We’ve been so impacted by the changes. This year it’s been particularly challenging with the supply chain and trying to get merchandise for the holiday season,” said Christopher Diez, Pot-Pourri’s owner. “Small businesses are critical to our communities, they’re critical to, you know, keeping things local and keeping our communities thriving.”

Weimax Wines & Spirits has maintained the same location since 1961, it is an anchor store in the district. Its current owner says Small Business Saturday has become an important driver for sales each year, especially during the pandemic. But the future for all local shops remains uncertain with the continuing growth of major e-commerce retailers.

“Now that they’ve been doing this for a few years, we’ve seen a little bit more activity with people mindful of the occasion,” said Gerald Weisl. “There’s definitely after-effects of last year and the challenge for small businesses is competing with online companies.”

Customers visiting stores on Saturday said they were proud to support these businesses, which they consider the backbone of the country.

“I think now more than ever it’s important to support small businesses,” said Tassie Jenkins.

Another woman at the same store said she prefers this experience. They learned it was Small Business Saturday that afternoon and decided to spend more along the street.

“I’m an old-school shopper and I really like to go into stores and I like to touch things and see things,” said Lauren McCombs.

That bond between customers and businesses has created a community that continues to support itself. Shoppers keep stores open that can go on to donate and support local causes in the same neighborhood.

“They support us, we support them, it’s always been a great relationship,” Diez said. “The community helps to keep us alive, it makes us so that small stores can still exist and you know they add color and flavor to the local community.”

The mission behind Small Business Saturday remains relevant according to Kevranian and other store owners but they say that kind of support is needed all year. They are part of the San Mateo County initiative “Choose Local,” an app launched earlier this year.