Small local businesses find niche in holiday shopping season

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Julie Balson knows there’s no way she can compete with big box stores.

As a small business owner, she has to set herself apart during the holiday season.

They may not have corporate backing, but small, locally owned shops have their advantages, said Balson, who owns the Gallery and Frame Shop, 94 S. Main St.

Balson is one of several downtown business owners promoting the 3/50 Project, where shoppers are encouraged to spend $50 between three locally owned businesses. In the spirit of the initiative, her store partnered with Lillians and As You Wish to hold a promotion on Black Friday weekend.

Downtown businesses also took part in Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26, a nationwide effort to persuade consumers to shop locally.

Balson said shopping at local stores supports the local economy and helps her keep five employees on the job.

She said she doesn’t have a problem with big box stores.

“There is a purpose for all of us out there,” she said.

Sara Cujak, owner of Cujak’s Wine Market and Wine Bar, 47 N. Main St., liked the idea behind Small Business Saturday. Consumers can hit the big box stores on Black Friday and then support small local enterprises on Saturday.

She said she’ll have wine tastings throughout December and specials to attract customers. Her store sells a variety of wines, wine accessories and olive oils.

“The benefit of shopping in boutique stores is they are personal stores. They know you,” she said, “and they remember your name.”

Unique

At Ollie’s Olive Oil Bar, 127 University Drive, guests may taste a variety of balsamic vinegars and olive oils. Owner Julie Regan said the service usually isn’t offered at major chains. She also carries products not found through national retailers or larger companies.

She added that customers like not having to travel out of town when they can find what they want in Fond du Lac.

There’s something special about a quaint, cozy business around the holidays, said Becky Butler, owner of Becky’s Cottage Floral, 435 W. Scott St. She decorates her shop for the season and complements it with Christmas-themed merchandise, including poinsettias, candles and gift sets.

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