Jennifer McCafferty started the outdoor Jen's Marketplace in Sun City Center in July to give local businesses a place to showcase their wares. • After the first market, the event planner and marketing specialist received requests to hold it again. • "It has transformed into a lot," she said. • The next marketplace is set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which in the last few years has become known as Small Business Saturday, thanks to a promotion started by American Express in 2010.
The Black Friday alternative encourages people to shop locally. The company offers marketing and promotional resources to small businesses and incentives to American Express cardholders who shop at participating stores.
"We have so many small businesses down here that need to grow," McCafferty said, noting the impact Amazon will likely have once it opens a warehouse in Ruskin. "We still want to keep our small businesses down here."
Other business owners in east Hillsborough are preparing for Small Business Saturday. Green Boutique in Valrico has participated for the last few years after first hearing about it from customers.
Last year, the store saw a 40 percent increase in sales from the Saturday the year before, said store owner Roz Creager. Small Business Saturday serves as a reminder to the community to support family-owned businesses, which often give back to the community, she said.
"We're your friends and neighbors," she said. "Small businesses add character to the community."
Green Boutique offers some items by Florida artists, and also popular brands like Pandora, Brighton Collectibles and Natural Life.
Debbie Ploor's home accessories shop Orange in Valrico also carries pieces by local artists from places like Valrico and Ybor City. She tries to find items by up-and-coming artists.
"With the economy the way it's been, if people are going to spend money, they want to buy something meaningful," Ploor said.
Apollo Beach artist Virginia Spalter has sold her glassware and jewelry in Ploor's shop for about two years. She aims to create unique pieces and supports other independent artists when she buys gifts for friends.
"We get so many imports into the country, I think it gets lost. It's challenging, to say the least, for a lot of artists to stay above that," Spalter said. "It's so nice if you can buy it from your neighbors. It keeps the community going."
Keeley Sheehan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2453.
Pearl and leather earrings, $55
Orange, 1046 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico
Crafted by Apollo Beach artist Virginia Spalter, who lives on a canal and draws inspiration from the water and other natural elements. Orange also sells bracelets by Spalter for $75, and glassware.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Black Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Small Business Saturday. Extended store hours begin in December. Call (813) 681-8686.
Seventh Avenue Apothecary soy candles, $15 tin and $25 jar
Orange, 1046 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico
The family-owned business hand-pours the candles in Ybor City, inspired by the family's Cuban and Italian heritage. Scents include fraser fir and thyme, and buttered rum and cinnamon. Visit 7thaveapothecary.com.
Wine glasses, $19
Green Boutique, 1032 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico
The glasses, both stemmed and stemless, are hand-painted by St. Petersburg artist Emily of Em'z Divine Dezignz. The Ohio native's designs are inspired by palm trees and other Florida staples.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Small Business Saturday
Extended store hours begin Dec. 1. Call (813) 685-9494.
Custom wall art, beginning at $150
Custom Wall Art & Signs, 5492 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Lithia
Owner Paul Ellis creates custom pieces for children's rooms, family rooms or other spaces. His pieces are also popular with wives shopping for their husbands. Depending on how elaborate the design is, it can take five to seven days to complete a piece. Ellis has already started taking orders for Christmas. He also creates items for businesses, such as banners and signs.
Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and Saturday by appointment. Call (813) 629-1812.