Despite single-digit temperatures, shoppers hit the streets of Palmer in full force Saturday.

The Palmer Downtown Deli was offering a free cookie for people participating in Small Business Saturday.

“It’s a tremendous driver of business in downtown – I would say the foot traffic at least triples for Small Business Saturday,” said deli owner Kevin Brown. “It’s huge; we’ll easily double our business for today.”

Brown says his customers understand money they spend here benefits more than just this business.

“We love using local ingredients, partnering with as many local farmers and producers as possible,” Brown said. “The more people who spend money here, the more we can spend in the community.”

American Express started the shopping holiday in 2010 as a way to get people to support local businesses. The National Retail Federation estimates about 71 million people will go shopping the day after Black Friday.

Storefronts around town were plastered with blue “Shop Small” signs and hearts, the signature of Small Business Saturday. 

Down the street, the Kosloski Center has a number of shops offering discounts and deals to bring shoppers in. Jeanette Gardiner, Palmer’s neighborhood coordinator for Small Business Saturday, showed off nearby businesses including local coffee shop Vagabond Blues.

In the four years since she’s taken on the role, she’s seen interest in the event grow – with about 30 companies participating this year.

“It’s important to me because these businesses really are the fabric of our community,” Gardiner said. “They make Palmer what it is.”

As more people turn to online shopping, Gardiner says it’s especially important to support neighborhood stores year-round.

“If you shop locally, especially in Palmer, we do have a sales tax,” Gardiner said. “It’s pretty minimal, but that sales tax goes right back into local services to help our community be the community that it is.”

At shoe shop Active Soles, owner Anne Thomas says the shop-small movement is gaining momentum.

“We opened at 8 (a.m.) and there were a couple of people who came in at 8; then it builds throughout the whole day,” Thomas said. “We’ll have ten times as many people in the store at one time every hour of today.”

Active Soles was offering three times more sales than usual on Small Business Saturday. Competing with big-box stores and online retailers can be tough – but Thomas says she takes time to make a connection with her customers.

“I think it always comes back to customer service and (how) you can make a relationship with someone,” Thomas said. “We really try to understand who our customers are and who they are personally, then how we can sell to them.”

Being a small business in a small town has its challenges – but Palmer store owners say they’re proud to be a part of a community that loves to come together to support the local economy.