Small Business Saturday draws neighbors to downtown Wausau

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- It’s Small Business Saturday, a nationwide push encouraging people to shop local following Black Friday.

Shoppers come to downtown Wausau Saturday (WSAW Photo).

Stores in downtown Wausau were packed with people showing local owners their support.

While many people make Black Friday at big stores an experience,
Shopping small on Saturday is a little different.

"You don't go there for the experience, you actually are part of the experience," said Randy Verhasselt, owner of Evolutions in Design.

And small businesses work hard to craft that experience.

"Always reinventing the wheel, so to speak, is the challenge. And that's what keeps me going, but I think that's also what frustrates other retailers at times," he said.

The appeal for many people? When you spend $1 at one of these small businesses, more than two thirds of that money goes back into the local economy.

"I like to support the small businesses as much as I can because that's their bread and butter, it's what's keeping money in our community and helping other people in our community as well," said former small business owner and Janke Book Store customer Toni Schmitt.

She says the personalized experience can't be matched.

"When you come into a small business like this and you get the service that you need, they answer the questions that you have, they find the items that you need or they order it for your specially, that says everything you need to know about a small business," she said.

"Buying from somebody that you know is in the community and involved in the community is actually more meaningful," said Verhasselt.

New this year is a holiday window display contest.

Customers voted on three categories. Best use of lights, most Wausau and best use of product.

"You know, last night I was here at 10:30 and I looked down the street and there were two other businesses still here working on their storefronts, and it was exciting to see. We do this... for our community," said Verhasselt.

Voters had the chance to win a $100 gift card from one of the dozen local businesses participating by voting throughout Saturday.