COAL TOWNSHIP - Small businesses can get lost in the Black Friday frenzy and the price hacking of retail giants, which is why American Express is sponsoring Small Business Saturday across the nation today as a way to remind consumers to invest in local business owners.

"It spotlights us. We don't have to share the limelight on a day we can't compete," said Marty Sinopoli, owner of Gigi's Gift and Home Decor in The Plaza at Coal Township, Friday afternoon.

American Express describes the event as a day between Black Friday and Cyber Monday "dedicated to supporting small businesses nationwide."

Last year, more than 100 million people participated in the shopping day, according to a 2011 Small Business Saturday Consumer Survey by Echo Research.

Sinopoli opened early on Black Friday in 2011 in hopes to entice those already shopping at Walmart on the other side of Route 61 into her store, but decided against extended hours this year due to poor results.

"Walmart and big retailers can buy things in mass quantity. They can afford such great deals and still make a profit. I can't," she said.

However, she added, the response last year to Small Business Saturday was positive.

"We had customers coming out of their way to come here. We had people bringing me gifts, and showing appreciation," Sinopoli said.

At Gigi's today, Sinopoli will be raffling off a snowman valued at $24.99 and a $25 gift card, and she also has plenty of Christmas decorations and holiday-related gifts in stock.

The special day to honor small businesses is a great idea, said Winnie Reineberg, one of Gigi's customers Friday.

"It spotlights them and draws attention away from the big stores," the York woman said, who was visiting family in Mount Carmel Township this weekend.

Her sister, Christine Fink, of Jersey Shore, said the small businesses are more personal and a customer can interact more with the owners.

Sinopoli agreed, saying, "I know everyone's names, their stories and their livelihoods. I care about my customers, and I love it."

Other businesses

At Matlow's Clothing, 141 S. Oak St., Mount Carmel, owner Mark Koveleski is offering specials for the Christmas season - 20 percent off various items in the store and $100 off suits.

At Archie's Shoe Store, 828 Chestnut St., Kulpmont, owner Ron Lentini said nothing special is being done for the Christmas season other than the usually discounts on shoes, but the idea of promoting small businesses makes him happy.

"It's a great idea. You have to support the businesses that support your local organizations," he said.

At Shimock's Furniture, Route 61, Kulpmont, owner John Shimock is offering 20 percent off tables, lamps, mirrors, entertainment centers and other large furniture items in collaboration with the 97th anniversary of the store and the Christmas season.

He also described further promotions that have not been advertised yet: $50 off the lowest ticket price for any recliner, free mattress protector with any mattress purchase, buy one lamp and get one free and a free nightstand with any bedroom set purchase.

Shimock noted the concept of Small Business Saturday is still in its infancy.

"We won't have extra sales people on hand because of it, but I'm on board with anything that supports small businesses. How effective it is in the beautiful downtown of Kulpmont," he said.

Koveleski, too, isn't convinced that Small Business Saturday is a success yet.

"I don't know if it means much if there's not much exposure. I hope we do well, but it's tough seeing the future," he said.

It's tough competing with big businesses since Matlow's doesn't offer electronics or appliances, he said.

On the other hand, Dale Fahringer, manager of K&S Music in Elysburg, said his store is not only competing with the retail giants on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they're also beating their prices.

"It (Small Business Saturday) is a good thing. It's getting us out there, and getting us recognition. We can make it happen just like big retailers are. We're doing everything we can, and we can make the deals," he said.

Fahringer said the large stores give K&S an advantage to compete with prices when they release their Black Friday deals early.

'Heart of business'

Sandy Winhofer, director of Brush Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses are the heart of business, especially in the local area.

"We have so many treasures right here in this region. People don't realize the small fortune we have. They just need to say they're going to shop local," she said.

The chamber is encouraging members and the community to patronize a regional business to help the local economy to grow.

"They tend to sometimes get swallowed up on Black Friday. They can't hold the quantity of possible products a big chain can have at one time," she said. "But the good thing is a lot of them are specialized, and you can find unique products for your holiday gift buying."

To locate a small business, go to www.brushvalleychamber.com or www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small.