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Small Business Saturday, officially the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is a national effort that raises awareness about the importance of patronizing local small businesses.

In support of Small Business Saturday, Westland Mayor William R. Wild gave out gift cards at five small business in his city such as Leo`s Coney Island, located at 36595 Warren Road and Ashley’s on 7525 N. Wayne Road.

“The local economy in Westland is built around small businesses,” he said. “ We use this day to remind folks that we can’t forget small business during the holiday. A lot of small businesses count on the holiday season because it is potentially the difference between making or breaking their business.”

Wild added that for every $100 spent locally, $66 stays in the local community. This money can then be used to to help build parks, libraries and improve fire and police departments said the mayor.

Small businesses have been doing their own holiday-themed sales on Small Business Saturday for decades but the day really got its footing after American Express became a major sponsor in 2010.

Its popularity is increasing among small business owners. Last year 73 percent of local business owners polled said they were aware of the national effort which according to experts is becoming more and more lucrative.

Last year alone, consumers spent more than $5.7 billion in small businesses on the Saturday, said retail analyst and Small Business Saturday spokeswoman Nicole Leinbach Reyhle.

According to American Express OPEN’s 2014 Small Business Holiday Monitor, of the 505 businesses surveyed, 36 percent said they expected their holiday sales to be strong this season, up from 22 percent last year.

Martin George, owner of Leo’s Coney Island, employs 30 people.

He said it is important for the city and the community to recognize small business.

“We work hard here for our customers and we appreciate their patronage,” he said. “The city of Westland has done a great job in promoting small business and business in general.”

Customer Harold Pope, was enjoying lunch at Leo’s Coney Island with family visiting from New York.

Pope, who lives within walking distance of the restaurant stops in up to four times a month.

“It is a local business that I like to go to and I like to support it,” Pope said. “I don’t want to see it disappear.”

Diners Mary Lou Marenda and friend Jane Healy said they make it a point to shop locally and patronize small businesses.

The environment for small businesses in the state got a significant lift when the Michigan Business Tax was abolished, said Amanda Fisher, assistant state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses Michigan office. Most of those tax breaks went to small businesses, she said.

In addition to Westland, thousands of business owners across the region offered unique products and deals to mark the day.

In Detroit local business owners and vendors sold their products at the BUILD Bizarre, a kind of holiday market held at the D:hive in Downtown Detroit.

Many municipal downtown development authorities or other business-boosting local organizations put their own spin on Small Business Saturday.

In Northville, the Downtown Development Authority offered free gift wrapping services in the town center for those shoppers who took advantage of deals and specials at the 60-plus locally owned stores.

And in many Dearborn shops, restaurants and other businesses offered their own deals. Additionally the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce offered shoppers an additional incentive: a $25 American Express gift card if they spent at least $100 at any of the 224 participating businesses, including dentists offices, pharmacies and cafes.

On Monday morning, the first 25 people who come in to the Chamber of Commerce with their receipts showing they spent locally will get the gift cards, which were donated by American Express.

This year, the Birmingham Principle Shopping District promoted the sales by offering a passport incentive. Customers received stamps in a passport for every business they shopped at and when they were done, they turned them in at Astreins Creative Jewelers to receive a voucher for a treat.

UWatson@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2613

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