Small Business Saturday fosters community

Local shops gear up for annual Holiday Walk

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By Maria Maxham

Small Business Saturday took on special meaning on Nov. 30 at Century & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 Madison St, when owner Augie Aleksy held Independents Day, featuring 15 local authors.

"It was a celebration of independent bookstores and writers," said Aleksy. "We served coffee and cookies. I call it a soirée," he added, "but my wife said it was an 'open house.'"

An open house that brought in the shop's third highest sales for a single day in the past 10 years.

Each author had a seat, a table with a stack of books, and two chairs for guests to sit down and talk. 

"They were each scheduled for two hours," said Aleksy, "but some of them stayed longer. It was wonderful. There were authors talking to each other. They were buying each other's books." 

But he explained that, equally important, were customers talking not just to the authors but to each other. 

"It was a real social and community event," Aleksy added. 

Participating authors included: Kathryn Atwood, D. M. Pirrone, Michael A. Black, Georgann Prochaska, Ava Black, Libby Hellmann, John Helmke, Robert Goldsborough, Pat Camalliere, John Rice, Tracy Clark, Bill Rapp, Mark Edward Langely, San P. Park and Raymond Benson.

"All of them have a local connection," Aleksy said. "They live locally or write about local topics."

Rapp, for example, is originally from Naperville, and some of his books are set in a town based on his hometown.

Goldsborough's books are set in Chicago, and he pulls from his experience as a real-life reporter in his crime novels.

And, of course, there was at least one writer from Forest Park: the Review's own John Rice.

Farther east on Madison Street, Todd & Holland Tea Merchants celebrated Small Business Saturday too. Owner Janet Todd expressed her love for the "holiday."

"Small Business Saturday is like visiting with old friends because our local customers came in with extended family members and their children," said Todd. "It's just a great day."

She added that small businesses like hers truly appreciate the movements that encourage people to shop local. She's gearing up for the Holiday Walk, during which she'll be serving cookies and tea so people can warm up. Ice sculptures will be made on the front lawn.

Up and down Madison Street, other businesses are also getting ready for the Holiday Walk and Festival of Windows, sponsored by the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 6. The event features live window displays in many of the stores along the street, horse-drawn carriage rides, face painting and ice sculptures by Nadeau's Ice. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by fire engine at 6 p.m to help light the tree and then walk to Forest Park Bank for visits and photos with residents. Don't forget your camera.

And don't miss the Forest Park Review and Wednesday Journal staff in the windows of Grand Appliance, 7440 Madison St.

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