Supporting your neighbors

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L to R: Lee Bevins, Ali Lapierre, Teri Lamphere and Brenda Wheel of Claussen's Florist stand among the numerous poinsettia's in the shop's greenhouse last week. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

L to R: Lee Bevins, Ali Lapierre, Teri Lamphere and Brenda Wheel of Claussen’s Florist stand among the numerous poinsettia’s in the shop’s greenhouse last week. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

When you work at a small, local business, your co-workers are family, whether you’re related or not.

Or at least that’s how Ali Lapierre from Claussen’s Florist, Greenhouse and Perennial Farm describes it.

Claussen’s is one of multiple small businesses in Colchester participating in Small Business Saturday on November 26, the day after Black Friday.

Aimed at supporting local spots and creating more customer buzz, the “holiday” is a time to show gratitude for the places with unique offerings, and not something you can buy at a number of other stores, said Kathi O’Reilly, Colchester’s director of economic development.

“Why not shop and support your neighbor?” she said.

“You don’t expect a mob,” said Kelly Klein of Colchester’s Mead Hall, comparing Saturday to the oversized crowds and craze for which Black Friday is generally known.

Kelly and her business partner and husband, Ricky, are also known for their welcoming atmosphere, Klein explained, including an intimate feel with no televisions. Adding to this is what Klein referred to as a cozy drink: their Winter Warmer mead, to be released November 25 and 26.

Lapierre, a 10-year full-time employee of the farm, said she’s accustomed to the small-business family atmosphere, as she grew up in the greenhouse. She can rely on her co-workers – some even attend her family gatherings, she added.

The greenhouse, which gets warmer as the days get colder, is one attraction that brings people in, her father, Chris Conant, said. Conant, in his 37th year with Claussen’s, is a co-owner.

Formerly Lapierre’s playhouse, the greenhouse is filled with more than 40,000 pots of poinsettias: The 6.5-inch ones are two dollars off this Saturday, just one of several deals for the event.

Small businesses cannot afford to offer the same type of promotions that big box stores can on Black Friday, said Laurie Mazza Bombard of Sam Mazza’s Family Farm.

Small businesses may have higher prices, but they have higher quality, too, Lapierre said. Goods are not bought in mass quantities to sell at a flat rate nationwide. Instead, Claussen’s prepares their own poinsettias, stemming them and molding them through every step of the growing process.

“Growing a Vermont product is quite different than say a product that travels in a tractor trailer for five days coming from a box store and may experience difficulty in shipping and being in a different environment,” Conant said, noting different temperatures are needed for different plants.

Smaller businesses can focus on these finer details, Lapierre explained.

While customers look for fresh products, they also find familiar faces behind the counter, which Conant said Claussen’s achieves. Among the company’s 26 year-round employees, they have an average 20 years’ experience at the shop, Conant said.

Back at Mazza’s, Bombard recognized the weekend following Thanksgiving is a big shopping weekend, but said Saturday is less about crowds and more about spirited people shopping with more time to browse in a local, relaxed atmosphere without lengthy lines.

“We’re not [located] at the mall,” she said. “We’re not on the beaten path. So people have to remember us to come out here. It’s special to shop here.”

Because Sam Mazza’s has been around for so long, they’re a Colchester tradition at this point, she said.

Besides being small, local and family-driven, these businesses have something else in common – their loyal customers.

O’Reilly, a 23-year Colchester resident, said she’s not only supportive of the town’s local businesses because of her economic profession, but because she believes in the importance of encouraging your neighbors.

Although the town claimed Small Business Saturday as an official day in 2015, businesses started taking advantage of the day several years ago. In a way, it’s an opportunity for companies to show appreciation for the support their customers’ provide, Lapierre said.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our customers,” she added.