ATLANTA -- Those little shops around the corner and down the street are fighting the big chain stores for a piece of the holiday-shopping action.
And the Saturday after Thanksgiving -- now called "Small Business Saturday" -- is a big day for the little guy.
"It's about supporting local businesses, and to keep our economy going with smaller businesses," an Atlanta merchant, Christina Mitchell, said Friday evening.
You can find the independent retailers scattered across Metro Atlanta and the rest of Georgia, in small neighborhoods of shops and restaurants and mom and pop stores, clustered on the county squares and Main Streets where the centers of commerce used to be -- in towns like Lawrenceville, Woodstock, Marietta, Douglasville, Jonesboro and McDonough -- and in the downtowns, and nestled next to many of the older, in-town residential neighborhoods, of the bigger cities such as Atlanta.
Christina Mitchell manages Mitzi's Corner, a shop that offers women's clothing, hand-made jewelry and other merchandise. The shop is on the corner of Virginia and Highland Avenues in NE Atlanta, and it is one of several, small retail businesses that line the two streets for a block or two.
Mitchell and the others are offering discounts and other incentives, trying to convince holiday shoppers crowding the big malls to "shop small" at independent retailers, as well, on Small Business Saturday.
The Small Business Saturday promotion is in its third year, nationwide, and it's catching on among shoppers.
According to a survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 36 percent of independent retailers now say that Small Business Saturday has already become the most important day of the year for their businesses.
"Coming to the small shops is more personal," Mitchell said. "You're able to have the more 'one-on-one' help.... The chain stores, you see the same thing, over and over. Here, there are a lot of local artists and designers that we do carry, you're able to find things that maybe aren't offered in the larger department stores, which makes your gifts more unique. And to be able to be told a story about your item that you're giving or buying for yourself is great, as well.... You're able to talk to the customer and tell them exactly what they're buying and where it's made."
The shops in that part of the Virginia-Highland neighborhood on Friday evening were seeing a steady stream of several customers at a time, including Beth Kess of Atlanta.
Kess, shopping with her niece, Steffi Baer, said she understands that the big box stores can easily under-cut the prices of the little guys.
"I like finding unique things, individual things," Kess said. "I am willing, if I have to, to pay a little bit more to help the small business person than to just shop just purely based on price. I like the customer service, I like the familiarity. And I like that, you know, the little man can make it. The American Dream."
"I like when I walk in the store and they know me from my whole life," Baer said. "It's more unique, and also you support the small businesses. It's not just big businesses. Everybody gets a chance."
So while those little, independent shops can't always under-price the big box stores, they are hoping to prove to more customers than ever, on Saturday, that they can often offer greater value, year 'round.