Ah, the holidays. A time to reflect on the past year, enjoy the company of loved ones and, of course, shop.
And on Small Business Saturday, Couve Cycle owner Michael Palensky made sure his fellow small businesses got a little love just in time for the gift-giving season. Palensky fired up his recognizable 10-seater party cycle, blasted Christmas tunes and took a group of women on a tour of downtown shops for the company’s first Sip, Shop & Spin.
“Don’t worry about how much you spend,” Palensky told his guests with a grin, turning up Mariah Carey’s holiday hit, “All I Want for Christmas is You.” The riders cheered and danced in their seats as they made their way up Main Street, waving at curious onlookers watching the tinsel-decorated contraption pass.
Shoppers on the tour stopped at four downtown shops before ending their day at Cellar 55 for a glass of wine. The Couve Cycle typically only visits bars and breweries, but Palensky said he’s wanted to expand to shopping tours or other kinds of trips for some time — and Small Business Saturday seemed the perfect time to give it a try.
The initiative was launched by credit card company American Express in 2010 to visit small, locally-owned businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Spending on Small Business Saturday has reportedly reached $103 billion over the last decade, according to American Express’ website.
“We’re always looking for other options to get people out there,” Palensky said.
Gretchen Sass of Woodland was among those who joined the ride. Sass, who owns an acupuncture clinic, said she wants to support small businesses like her own.
“That’s the way I prefer to shop in this day and age,” she said.
Keri Knight, a repeat Couve Cycle customer, was also along for the fun. She even overcame having one foot in a walking boot to treat a recent injury, using her one fully-functioning leg to pedal the party bus.
For Knight, Saturday’s festivities were a two-for-one deal: support a business she frequents while checking out some new spots in downtown.
“We’re excited we don’t have to cross the river,” she said.
Natasha Hauskins, manager of newly reopened Wild Fern, has been gently nudging Palensky to start some kind of shopping tour for some time now. Wild Fern’s expanded shop, at 901 Main St., was the first stop on the trip.
At a time when it’s easier to sit on your couch and shop from home than it is to explore your community’s own stores, Hauskins said small businesses like the boutique and Couve Cycle need to work together to draw in shoppers. And while it was hard to say whether Sip, Shop & Spin had a significant impact on Saturday’s sales, Hauskins was cheery as she packed up about half a dozen bags of goodies for her mobile visitors.
“We have to do it together,” Hauskins said. “If we all join forces, we’ll really grow.”