Record crowd for Franklin’s Small Business Saturday kick-off

A record-breaking crowd shopped small in Franklin on the biggest local retail shopping day of the year.

Bargersville couple Jennifer and Tim Eiler were the first in line for the Franklin Chamber of Commerce’s Start Here Open House at around 8:30 a.m. They were followed closely by Franklin couple Missy and Brad Jones, who arrived at about 8:45 a.m.

By 10 a.m. the line stretched from the door to the Chamber’s downtown office to KORN Country’s office at the end of the block.

They were all hoping to snag one of the four $100 Chamber Cash coupons to spend at participating Franklin shops. The Chamber gave away $1,500 in Chamber Cash this year to the first 50 people over age 18 in line.

Chamber Executive Director Rosie Chambers said this is probably the biggest turnout of the nine-year open house tradition. Seeing this many people come out to support local small businesses on a cold Saturday morning made all their efforts to organize the event worth it, she said.

The Eilers were first-timers to the kick-off event, but they are no strangers to shopping small. Jennifer Eiler works for American Express, which created the Small Business Saturday event in 2010, so she knows the importance of the holiday to local businesses.

“Just knowing all the money stays in the community is really important. We like supporting that,” Jennifer Eiler said. “Plus who wants big box stuff when you can get some really cool things made by locals.”

A favorite local shop the Eilers were looking forward to checking out on Small Business Saturday was Middle David Candles, which they come back to time and time again for the homemade candles and assortment of artisan jewelry and greeting cards.

The Joneses line up early each year and have made the kick-off a tradition. They’ve been coming downtown to Christmas shop at Toodleydoo Toys for years, and have added stops at Wild Geese Bookshop and Gamers Cave as their kids got older, they said.

The gifts at each shop are unique and come with the benefit of supporting the local economy, Missy Jones said.

“It gives back to our community,” she said. “We had breakfast at Coffee House Five before we came here, and they give money back to programs in our community, just like the (business) people who live here.”

Small Business Saturday is celebrated at local retailers, but it also benefits local restaurants. Shoppers were fueled by cups of coffee, breakfast and lunch from local establishments as they shopped throughout the day.

Statistics show shopping at U.S. small businesses injects about 67 cents of every dollar back into the local economy.

Small Business Saturday and the overall holiday season is an important time of year for local businesses. A busy holiday shopping season helps sustain businesses like Possibilities: Home Re-Imagined in the early months of the year, when business is the slowest, said Christina Fletcher, owner.

“If we have a flop in the fourth quarter we might not make it to next year. By supporting our business now, you make sure we are open for the next year,” Fletcher said.

Though her main business and the reason for the storefront is refurbishing and refinishing furniture, Fletcher takes pride in selling work from local vendors and from other small businesses across the country.

At any given time, about 45 vendors sell their handmade goods in the shop, she said.

“The difference here is that you’re helping pay for someone’s piano lessons; someone’s horseback riding lessons; you’re helping make someone’s dream come true,” Fletcher said.

At Possibilities, shopping small has a direct impact on the lives of at least 46 families, each of the 45 vendors and Fletcher’s own family.

Those 46 families then give back to their community and put their money back into Franklin, other communities in Johnson County, as well as communities in the state and across the country.

“The t-shirts we sell here are made by a 9-year-old boy,” Fletcher said. “I cut him and his mom an $1,800 check last week. Where else could a 9-year-old boy make that kind of money? When he comes in here, he buys gifts for his friends. When you shop here, you’re helping your neighbor instead of some big corporation.”

To help businesses and guide shoppers during the holiday season and beyond, Fletcher created a new website,, and a mobile application to promote Franklin small businesses.

The goal of the new venture is to bring local businesses together to promote shopping, dining and events in Franklin. Both feature a map of shopping and dining in Franklin and will feature coupons and information about participating local businesses, Fletcher said.

The app also provides directions to local businesses, which can help people from out of town find all the businesses they want to visit, she said.

The website is live now and the app is available for Apple and Android smartphones. Business owners can visit the website to put in a request to be added via a free or paid listing.