By Terry Rogers
On Wednesday, November 26, Senator Tom Carper joined John Fleming, Small Business Administration Delaware Director and Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe on a tour of downtown Milford in order to promote Small Business Saturday. The event is designed to promote shopping at local stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Senator Carper, Mr. Fleming and Mayor Shupe visited Irish Rose, Gallery 37 and Sugar Bee Boutique on Walnut Street, talking with the owners of the shop and learning how the federal government could help them grow their small businesses. Senator Carper said that it was clear that Milford was a growing business community as evidenced by the three businesses he visited, all of which had opened over the past two years.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” Senator Carper said. “They are the job creators and innovators. Milford has a great energy going on in its downtown area, and it is great to talk to the owners and some of their customers about downtown’s attractions.”
Irish Rose, owned by Eugenia Sparks, sells Irish and Celtic crafts and gifts. The gift shop opened in the fall of 2013, a dream of Ms. Sparks and her late husband, Tom. The name of the store is in honor of the single rose Mr. Sparks brought to his wife on special occasions.
“It was an honor to have Senator Carper visit Irish Rose,” Mrs. Sparks said. “We had a wonderful conversation about my start-up in Milford. It was quite apparent during his visit that he is a long-time supporter of small business.” As far as what local, state and federal governments could do to help small businesses in downtown Milford, Ms. Sparks said her only concern was the heavy flow of large truck traffic on Walnut Street. She said that she understands that many GPS systems may direct them through downtown, but she is concerned that some of the renovations downtown are being damaged, such as bricks loosening and other damage.
Marcia Reed, the owner of Gallery 37, opened her unique art gallery in December 2012. She said she chose Milford for her gallery location because the city has a strong, passionate artist community. The gallery features unique art work created by many different artists in the area. Sugar Bee Boutique, owned by Sherry Shupe and Peggy Reilly, opened in April 2014 in conjunction with the Bud and Bug Festival in downtown Milford. The store sells vintage candy displayed on antique furnishings which are also for sale.
During his tour, Senator Carper was surprised to learn that none of the businesses he visited had used the services of the Small Business Administration. The owners said that they were not really aware of what was available through the organization that would have helped them as they started their businesses, but that they were interested in learning what was available to grow their company.
Small Business Saturday began in 2010 as an event sponsored by American Express. The day follows Black Friday when many shoppers head to the malls for special discounts and deals as the official start of the Christmas shopping season and before Cyber Monday when many shoppers go online to find deals. Small Business Saturday promoted shopping at local stores in an effort to help small businesses grow. The event became official in 2011 and by 2013, Small Business Saturday became a nationwide event as shoppers headed to local stores to find special gifts for those on their list.
“I encourage Delawareans to shop local, not only on Small Business Saturday, but throughout the year,” Senator Carper said. “Shoppers are not only supporting their local business, but they are sustaining jobs and their community.”