Kylie Campbell wasn't going to let a little rain spoil her shopping trip Saturday.
She and her mother, Julie Campbell, and sisters Kortney and Kayla – all of Huntington – waited around noon in a light mist and temperatures in the high 40s outside the University of Saint Francis Business Center on Ewing Street for a trolley. It would shuttle the quartet to the next set of stores they planned to check out as part of this year's Holly Trolley Shopping.
Organized by the Downtown Improvement District, the event encourages shoppers to visit mom-and-pop retailers. It coincides with Small Business Saturday, a national effort to highlight local retailers rather than big-box and online stores.
“(It's) to help our community grow,” Kylie Campbell said.
That's true, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. The agency estimates small businesses “generate two of every three net new jobs and deliver essential goods and services to America's communities 365 days a year,” its website states.
About 88 million people shopped on Small Business Saturday last year, a statement from the administration said. Sixty-six percent of consumers said they support small businesses because of their contributions to the community, according to the statement.
Holly Trolley Shopping started in Fort Wayne in 2011, and it has grown in popularity. Forty retailers took part the first year, and nearly twice as many were involved this year.
The popularity was evident as shoppers crowded trolleys, shops and trolley stops around the city on an otherwise dreary day.
Inside Guitar Exchange on Wells Street, owner Skip Calvin said his store has been a part of Holly Trolley Shopping since it started. He said he doesn't see an increase in sales on the special day – but that's not the point.
“For me, it's important for me to do things with the neighborhood,” said Calvin, who opened the guitar shop in 1995. “It's important for me to be a part of the neighborhood.”
Samantha Trietsch appreciates that.
She was at the store with sons Nathan, 10, Collin, 8, and Easton, 6. Nathan is taking piano lessons, she said, and the two other boys are interested in learning to play guitar.
“They sound cool,” Easton said.
Trietsch said it's important to support local businesses.
“I'd rather not go to the big stores,” she said.
That's what Sam Hyde likes to hear. He owns Hyde Brothers Booksellers, a used-book store that doubled Saturday as a trolley stop.
Every dollar spent at a local business stays in the community, Hyde said.
“My family all shop online,” he said. “I kind of shake my head.”
Devin Smith of Fort Wayne was at the store with his friend Natalie Robinson of Ossian.
“(Shopping local) is important because, deep down, the box stores always have what you need, but local stores have something special – customer service,” Smith said.
Sometimes local stores have even more than that.
Julie Cummings, here from Florida to visit family, picked up a particularly uncommon item at Creative Women of the World on West Wayne Street: paper made from elephant dung.
“You get fun and unique shopping,” she said, smiling.