“Outstanding” is how Culpeper Renaissance Inc. Board President Tish Smyth described downtown shopping this past weekend for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

“I walked around checking with people and all of the merchants said they were very busy and some of them looked frazzled – they were thrilled to be that way,” she said.

Smyth, a local Realtor, said she expected the local shopping momentum to continue as the holidays approach.

“All of our merchants offer so much variety and people were in and out of the shops and our wonderful restaurants going out to eat so it will be very positive,” she said.

More than 30 downtown Culpeper shops and eateries participated with sales and specials on Small Business Saturday, a national event the weekend after Thanksgiving said to keep 67-cents of every $1 in the local communities where the money is spent.

“We had a fantastic weekend. I think we were just as busy or more so than last year,” said Edward Hanlin, co-owner with his partner, Larry Walters, of The Frenchman’s Corner chocolate shop on East Davis Street. “So far we are thrilled with this holiday season. Things have gotten progressively busier and this past Saturday was our best day ever so far surpassing the record that we broke on the Sunday of the Holiday Open House.”

Hanlin’s outlook for the coming days was optimistic.

“I continue to hope and anticipate that this will be a good holiday season for us and downtown. With only three weekends left before Christmas and a shortened shopping season since Thanksgiving was so late, shoppers are likely starting to feel the sense of urgency to get out there and work in their shopping lists,” he said.

Culpeper Economic Development & Tourism Director Paige Read noted weekend visitation saw a nearly 11 percent increase over last year. She said an estimated 36 percent of downtown visitors were in town staying with friends or family for Thanksgiving. Another large segment of visitors drove less than an hour specifically to shop in Culpeper, Read said.

“We had a a very healthy mix of folks from places like Orange and Madison, other locals and tourists,” she said, calling the economic impact of shopping where you live “vitally important.”

Even shopping at local big box stores in Culpeper that support local schools or filling up at family-owned gas stations helps, Read said: “Keeping that spending in any of our brick and mortar stores versus e-commerce is stronger for our local economy.”

Felecia Chavez, owner of La Bee Da Loca on East Davis, said Black Friday and especially Shop Small Saturday were phenomenal for sales in her shop that specializes in bee products and education.

“It was my personal best days ever, thank you to everyone that came out to support small business,” she said. “Without each and everyone we can not continue our dream! Merry Christmas!”

Nationwide, shoppers at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday reported spending a record high total of an estimated $19.6 billion, according to the 2019 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express.

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