A small crowd clad in red and white filled Swirl Bliss, a frozen yogurt shop in Baldwin, last weekend on what is known nationally as Small Business Saturday. They wore the colors of the Nassau Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and patronized a string of minority- and women-owned businesses as part of the organization’s third annual Small Business Crawl.
“Many times, when we do the Small Business Crawl, it ends up being one of the biggest sale days for the year for the businesses that we go out to see,” said Kim Malone, the sorority’s economic development chair.
The nonprofit, founded in 1913, which historically comprises African-American women but welcomes everyone, focuses on community service. The Nassau County chapter was launched in 1963, and currently has 186 members.
The crawl, they said, is intended to raise awareness of businesses in the community, increase foot traffic to them and boost their revenues, not just on the day of the crawl, but also in the months that follow.
Jackie Morrison-Brailsford, chapter president, said it’s hard for small businesses to get by today, and she plans to make it a habit to support them year-round. “It’s great that we’re able to increase sales on this one day, but how can we galvanize this effort throughout the year so they can have the continued support — that’s what we’re looking at as a sorority,” Morrison-Brailsford said.
Participants drove around Nassau County, visiting OMMA Martial Arts, Foxx Beauty Supply and Swirl Bliss in Baldwin, as well as businesses in Hempstead, Rockville Centre, Westbury and Garden City, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 30.
Malone said the organization chose a variety of businesses to visit along the crawl to avoid patronizing the same types of places. Organizers reached out to people for recommendations for minority- and women-owned businesses, including clothing and retail shops.
“It’s important to support the disenfranchised, because, not for nothing, although we’re in 2019, a lot hasn’t changed,” Morrison-Brailsford said, adding that it’s important to support these types of businesses because they are often crowded out by larger establishments. “You’re also supporting your local community — your own community — as well as trying to keep those taxes down.”
Carline Dickens, the owner of Swirl Bliss, said this was the second time her business has participated in the Small Business Crawl, and that each time it was a great turnout. Since 2012, Swirl Bliss has established itself as the place to go for a sweet treat, especially for students and parents after a concert at the high school, which is a block away.
“Instead of being part of Black Friday, we’re part of this, so it’s a good kickoff for the holiday season,” Dickens said, adding that it’s important to support the community, “because, honestly, if you don’t, you’re going to have a bunch of empty stores and storefronts, and it does nothing for the community.”
Dickens is heavily involved in the local community, hosting fundraisers for churches and schools and giving back portions of the proceeds to support her neighbors.
Small businesses also employ the majority of people in the country, Malone noted.
“It’s really important that we support our small businesses, not just for the tax base, which we definitely need here in Baldwin, but also for the employment,” she said. “You know, our teenagers come and they work here.”
“Small businesses are what drive America and towns like Baldwin,” said Baldwin Chamber President Erik Mahler. “It’s imperative that people remember the small stores because they are vital to the community.”
Daphne Franklin, sorority chapter vice president, said the crawl does a good job of shedding light on places that people may not be aware of in their own neighborhoods.
“There’s businesses that are in the community that I wasn’t even aware about that are actually right around the corner from my home,” Franklin said. “It was good to find out that we can go and visit those instead of me having to go to another town or go to another county when it’s right around the corner.”