American Express, the credit card company, had an idea a decade ago to increase its small business market share and help those small business owners at the same time.

It was, and is, called Small Business Saturday. Squeezed in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the day sort of epitomizes small businesses everywhere — smaller than the big stores or the internet, but big enough to make a big difference.

This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary for the small business promotion. American Express started it in 2010 with a discount incentive if people used their American Express card to make purchases in small businesses that day. That incentive is gone, but the incentive to keep neighborhood businesses open grew ever stronger.

"We all agree that every day is a good day to support our local businesses," said Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement District. "And we all know how important it is for our local economy. AND we all know that a healthy, thriving business district is important for our neighborhoods.

According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), Small Business Saturday pulled in a record $17.8 billion in sales at independent retailers and restaurants. This year, the 10th anniversary, is if anything more important than ever, according to John Kabateck, NFIB’s California state director.

"Given the fire damage that has devastated our state, this year’s Small Business Saturday takes on added importance, because it’s one small way all of us can help rebuild lives by rebuilding Main Street enterprises," Kabateck said. "Can a small purchase turn things around for tens of thousands of small-business owners and their employees? No. But thousands of small purchases can."

Cohn said that purchases at small businesses keep 48 percent of every dollar in the community — far higher than money spent in big box and chain stores.

"By supporting the businesses in Bixby Knolls, you are continuing to support positive change in the community," he said. "The neighborhood continues to be vibrant, your property values rise, and the ultimate sense of community pride continues to strive to be the highest in the city."

The same is true of business districts around the city, from Belmont Shore to the East Village, from Uptown to The Streets downtown. Many stores are offering specials this Saturday.

In Belmont Shore, the Belmont Shore Business Association has organized a Small Business Saturday contest with an entire pile of prizes from Shore businesses. To find out about the contest, go to the Instagram account, belmontshorelb.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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