Diane Sheridan, executive director of Grand Haven Main Street, said the events help showcase local businesses and raise public awareness about the variety and types of businesses in downtown Grand Haven.
“They can get everything from doughnuts to dog collars to diamonds in our downtown,” Sheridan said. “We also use the events as an educational tool to talk about the value of shopping local and keeping your money local.”
About 70 cents of every dollar spent stays local, Sheridan noted.
“That dollar will continue to turn up six or seven times,” Sheridan said. “It continues to move from business to business within the community and we support each other. If you buy online it goes out of state to know knows where and those profits go with it.”
Sheridan said she's pleased that there's a growing trend in recent years to support local shopping.
Although she said it's tough for small stores to compete with the chains on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday is a boon.
“A lot of people like to come downtown on Saturday,” she said. “It's growing. Each year, we're getting more traction.”
Sheridan said shopping downtown can bring benefits for shoppers.
“It makes you feel part of a community, kind of that old-time charm, almost a nostalgia,” she said. “You're seeing people you know and many of the business owners know the names of their customers. It's just that feeling of being connected.”
Ron and Peggy Cook, who recently opened Cook's Kitchen and Pantry at 124 Washington Ave., like that connection. Their store was packed with customers on Light Night.
“Being a new store, any exposure we can get is great,” Ron Cook said. “We had several people come back the next day and Sunday to purchase things they saw at Light Night. Sales were good and there was a lot of socializing. We think it's very positive.”
He noted that his store’s sales doubled on Light Night.
“It was a good day for us and we credit that to Light Night,” Ron Cook said. “And there's that residual business afterwards, as well.”
Jill Hutchinson, owner of Buffalo Bob's, 136 Washington Ave., said sales were up 60 percent on Light Night compared to a typical Friday night. She said she appreciates local events that promote downtown businesses.
“It keeps the local economy going keeping our downtown businesses vibrant,” Hutchinson said. “Some kids don't even know where downtown Grand Haven is. Light Night drew a lot of people in Friday night. It's always nice to see a lot of people that we haven't seen for a while.”
Hutchinson said it can be difficult to compete with online stores, but she can offer something many online retailers cannot – personal customer service.
“We can put things together and fix stuff,” she said. “My items are going to last. It's not something you wash two times and it falls apart.”
Randy Smith, owner of Michigan Rag Company, 121 Washington Ave, said his store was also packed Friday night, with sales up about 25 percent.
“They were buying and looking around so maybe that will pay off even more later,” he said. “People are realizing the value of the smaller business. Small business owners aren't using profits to buy a second or third home. They're buying their kid a soccer jersey. Their money is staying closer to home.”