November 30, 2019 at 4:30 am PST | by Scott Stiffler
WeHo widens its Small Business Saturday horizons
Small Business Saturday, gay news, Washington Blade

A wide array of WeHo businesses plan to participate in Small Business Saturday. (Photo courtesy of West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce)

The Nov. 30 Small Business Saturday event, done the West Hollywood way, is as much a date-specific destination event as it is a way to woo shoe-leather shoppers to brick and mortar businesses time and time again—and this time around, sweet deals, swag, and celebs beckon you to start the holiday shopping season by standing in solidarity with a favorite local merchant, or making a first-time transaction at a new discovery.

That call to action was first made a decade ago, when American Express conceived Small Business Saturday (SBS) as a next-day follow-up to Black Friday. Focused on the notion of making “a big impact in your community,” SBS sees locals rally in support of mom-and-pop businesses (or, for those lucky 10 percenters, pop-and-pops and mom-and-moms).

Locally, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (WHCC) has been on board since year one, says WHCC President/CEO Genevieve Morrill. That first time around, she recalls, “We just bounced off the platform that AmEx provided,” which gifted swag to participating businesses. WHCC provided helium tanks to local participating stores, with which to breath life into those AmEx-supplied, SBS logo-emblazed balloons.

“Then, the next year,” Morrill recalls, “we set up some hubs in different locations on the street, that would have Shop Small bags to give out.” In the coming years, they added a celebrity element, with longtime WHCC member Steve Valentine, of Valentine Group Public Relations, often called upon to use his connections to bring some star power to SBS. Bruce Vilanch, a Valentine “get” and a past participant, will be back this year. “Steve has those relationships,” notes Morrill. “And Bruce is a natural fit for us. People like him, and Leslie Jordan, are so specific to West Hollywood. We like to use our locals.”

You’ll find those local known names at four locations along the WeHo SBS route.

From 12-1 p.m., KTLA 5’s Emmy-winning Wendy Burch brings some journalistic flavor to Gelato Festival (8906 Melrose Ave.). Joined by her son, Brady, Burch and Gelato Festival’s master chefs will generate some artisanal flavors from the Festival’s classroom kitchen. Those flavors, including the intriguingly named Blueberry Basil, will be on sale for the day, while supplies last.

From 1:30-2:30 p.m., trainer’s gym Dogpound (627 N Robertson Blvd.) welcomes NBC4 award-winning anchor Robert Kovacik, who will sweat it out in one of the fitness classes. And no joke: Broadway star, Emmy-winning writer and Renaissance funnyman Bruce Vilanch will be good for a killer zinger or two (dozen), when, from 2:30-3:30 p.m., he presides over the modeling of “lift-tech” men’s underwear, at Rounderbum (802 N San Vincente Blvd.).

Golden Globe-winning actress Elizabeth Rohm, co-owner of RYU (Respect Your Universe), gives you a sneak peek at their spring 2020 collection. The event, 4-5 p.m., pulls double duty: It’s also the debut opening of their LA location (945 N Fairfax Ave.).

Giving back is the primary concern of WeHo SBS’s charitable component, which sees local participants earmarking a percentage of their Nov. 30 profits to a worthy cause. That effort has raised over $20,000 over the years, with past recipients including The Foundation for The AIDS Monument and the City of West Hollywood Homeless Initiative.

This time around, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Art and Culinary Arts program is the charity of choice. The program, as noted on the Center’s website, is “an intergenerational training program for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness and low-income LGBT seniors.”

Based at the Center’s commercial kitchen in the Anita May Rosenstein Campus, the program “engages youth, ages 18–24, to learn basic culinary skills alongside students from the Center’s Senior Services programs.” Graduates of the program top off their training by completing a 100-hour internship with local restaurants, catering companies, and food service businesses (SBS participant Gelato Festival is a current participant).

Segueing nicely into the notion of culinary art, SBS participants include Carerra Café (8251 Melrose Ave.), offering Shop Small lattes. Customers at Duff’s Cake Mix (8302 Melrose Ave.) will get 10 percent off on purchases—and Frank’s Chop Shop (8209 Melrose Ave.) delivers sweet and savory pastries to customers.

More info to follow on the SBS’s participants (every last one of them, in fact)—but let’s first circle back to the article’s opening salvo, which posits SBS as a call to action far beyond Nov. 30.

“When we debriefed last year,” says Morrill, of SBS 2018, “the feedback we got was, ‘How can we maximize local shopping beyond just one day?’ I think Small Business Saturday is an important day, but I also view it as an ‘awareness day.’ ”

To build awareness, WHCC is positioning billboards outside the city limits, touting the virtues of West Hollywood merchants. Some SBS participants will continue with special perks and promotions for the duration of the holiday season, and shoppers can plead their case in the great “naught or nice” debate by appealing directly to not one, but two, variations of Santa, in his “Hunky” and “Rock and Roll” incarnations (seen, respectively, at the pickup lines for the Santa Monica Blvd. and Sunset Strip shuttles).

Morrill also mentions, and not just in passing, how WHCC intends to build upon broadening the very notion of what constitutes a small business.

“Over the years,” Morrill says, “We started to realize the significance of the freelance, entrepreneur, and E-commerce market.” Those elements will continue to be represented, when these new economy merchants partner with brick and mortar participants.

Long-term, WHCC is looking forward to presenting its West Hollywood Small Business Initiative. Two and a half years in the making, the document recommends, Morrill says, “ways to entice small, unique businesses to open here. We need to rethink how we look at zoning codes and fee structures.” Although the Initiative focuses on retail, it also “takes a hard look at where the business environment is going,” and asks how to nurture “the live/work environment, the home-based business.”

For Nov. 30, however, brick and mortar is king, and coming out to put your cash where your choppers are is all important. Visit wehochamber.com/shopsmall for more info, including the full list of participants. See that list below to plan your route.

Atacama Home, B2V Salon, Block Party, The Bord Room Barber Shop, Candle Delirium, The, Chad Allen Method, Chroma Studio, Coco Queen, Conservatory, Custom Comfort Mattress, Dogpound, Drip Doctors, Employees Only, Fred Segal, Gelato Festival, The Gendarmerie, Grande Maison, Jaffa, Kitchen24, Miniluxe, My 12 Step Store, NARS, Pura Vita, Pleasure Chest, Pura Vita, The Real Real, RYU (Respect Your Universe), Shape House, Sunset Kids, Sutton, Tom Tom, Unplug Meditation, Urth Caffe, Vanity Girl Hollywood, Voda Spa, Weho Bistro, and Zen.

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