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Small Business Saturday takes shopping local, from boutiques to record stores

The folks of Agorie Headwear on Hertel Avenue figure that no one knows how they look under a range of fedoras, derbies or berets unless they stand at a mirror and assess the visage looking back.

You can't do that on an online retailer's website. But you can do it at Agorie's cozy storefront a few doors from the North Park Theater.

"To wear a hat, you have to be confident," says Meredith Michelin, one half of the husband-wife team that opened Agorie Headwear in the middle of 2016. She and the other half, Mark Michelin, say they can find the product that caps off a customer's personality, style and daring.

The word "Agorie," by the way, doesn't really mean anything. Mark Michelin made it up, not long after he came up with the heady idea to open a store devoted to the headpiece.

On Saturday, the Michelins threw open the doors at Agorie as smaller stores around the country enjoyed the bustle and "shop-small" sentiment of Small Business Saturday.

Created by American Express after the onset of the Great Recession, Small Business Saturday is now the companion to Black Friday. The aim is to support the small businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and enhance neighborhoods by bringing holiday shopping to them, too.

On its website, American Express says says U.S. customers reported spending an estimated $85 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on the eight Small Business Saturdays that have occurred since the first in 2010.

Shoppers were on Hertel Avenue for Small Business Saturday, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Shoppers carry the bags which were given out as they walk along Hertel Avenue. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

On Hertel Saturday, streetside parking was hard to find. Among the shoppers was Janet Binette. Binette has a dog and a cat. Her daughter has a dog and a cat. Other important people in her life have pets, too.

It's no small wonder that Binette paused at a store for pets called Daisy's Doghouse, where two cats available for adoption live and dogs out on a stroll with their owners are welcome to come in. Daisy is an Akita who lives in North Buffalo with her pal, Duke. Their humans, Lisa and John Samar, run Daisy's Doghouse.

"Lisa knows our pets," Binette says, by way of explaining why she's not buying pet food or the latest in pet accessories from a large online presence. "It's the personal connection."

Many of the storefronts along Hertel began as labors of love. That's roughly true of the Lamars' experience. They saw a boutique pet store while traveling in Savannah, Ga., and figured that could work in Buffalo, too. John kept his day job. But Lisa, who calls herself "a huge animal lover," jumped in with both feet when retail space at Hertel and Norwalk Avenue became available in 2015.

"It keeps you on your toes," Stacey Moscato said of competing with big online retailers. She opened her consignment shop for children's clothes — Peek-A-Boo Baby Boutique — while on maternity leave in the summer of 2010. She offered items on her website, too, but realized she could do better on Instagram. She now posts pictures of items she thinks will be popular and accepts payment by PayPal. She ships items, too, all with a staff of one: herself.

With the mammoth disruptions that have occurred in the music industry in the modern age, Revolver Records and other record stores cater to a special clientele, those who want to hear their music via needle to groove.

"The record-shopping public is a niche audience in itself," said Christopher Treacy, who staffed the Hertel Avenue store on Saturday while owner Phil Machemer ran his store on Elmwood. For independent record stores, there's Small Business Saturday but they also have capitalized on the energy of Black Friday by installing "Record Store Day" — to release special titles — on the same day.

Treacy said both Revolver Records stores had people waiting for them to open at 8 a.m. Friday.

Both have hard-to-find gems. In one nook of the store on Hertel lurks a 1979 recording of a comedy routine by an up-and-comer named Robin Williams. The jacket features a warning: "Please note that certain words in this album may be considered objectionable by parents of children under 16."

Shoppers were on Hertel Avenue for Small Business Saturday, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. A shopper carries one of the bags which were given out. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

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