Nov. 24 marked the 8th annual We Heart Eagle Rock Shop Small event, during which local business owners and shoppers alike celebrated the small businesses that line Eagle Rock and Colorado Boulevards. The event coincided with similar events across the country recognizing Small Business Saturday, a day dedicated to acknowledging local businesses following the frenzy of Black Friday sales.
The Eagle Rock event began in 2011, when business owner Leanna Lin of Leanna Lin’s Wonderland, a novelty gift store that doubles as an art gallery for local artists, collaborated with other local businesses to organize an event highlighting Eagle Rock’s unique offerings.
“Because I was a new store and I wanted to get things going for small shops in the neighborhood, I decided to start that with just stores on Eagle Rock Boulevard, and then it just slowly grew every year,” Lin said.
According to Lin, more than 70 businesses participated in the 2018 event. While the event originally focused on retailers, several restaurants and health and fitness spaces now participate as well. In addition to sales and free tastings, the event featured live performances from local musicians, pilates classes and arts and crafts stations, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Erin Tanaka, the owner of the home and garden-products store Acorn on Colorado Boulevard, reiterated the importance of Lin’s involvement.
“[Lin] is probably one of the pioneers for these small businesses in Eagle Rock, and so she has really pushed [the Shop Small event] to a totally different level,” Tanaka said.
Tanaka also noted that the event allows businesses to highlight their own unique qualities.
“Almost everybody participates in some way, shape or form,” Tanaka said. “We all do something different, because there’s no formula that says what we have to do, so we just figure out what we want to do for the day.”
Activities included concerts hosted by the Green Bean children’s store on their patio space, a free wine tasting at artisan cheese shop Milkfarm and a series of pop-up clothing shops hosted by vintage boutique Top Knot.
According to Natasha Nelson, owner of Madre, a yoga studio that also sells coffee, tea, books and clothing on Colorado Boulevard, the Shop Small event gives Eagle Rock business owners an opportunity to interact more directly with their customers and the local community.
“We opened exactly a year ago. I got involved with the Shop Small event because my neighbor down the street, Erin [Tanaka], who owns Acorn, said that we must open for Shop Small. At that point we were under heavy construction,” Nelson said.
Despite the construction at the time, Nelson opened the store to the community in order to participate in Shop Small.
“By all definitions, it was a huge success and introduced us to a lot of people in the neighborhood, and it was just a great opportunity to connect with other business owners and neighbors,” Nelson said.
According to Haley Solar, owner of Junim, a clothing and jewelry store on Eagle Rock Boulevard, the Shop Small event helps expose community members to local businesses they may have otherwise overlooked.
“That’s the great part about Shop Small — you get to see all these great stores. I mean, I’ve had a couple customers today who are regulars, but all day I’ve had people saying ‘When did you open?’ And I’m like, ‘Two years ago,” Solar said.
Nelson noted that the exposure from the event oftentimes produces long-term relationships between the businesses and members of the local community.
“The great thing about the Eagle Rock community is that it’s such a loyal community, so once we build those relationships with people, we see them again, they become members,” Nelson said. “So it’s really just a matter of meeting the people and getting them in here.”
Tanaka expressed a similar sentiment.
“I see people during this one time a year, and sometimes that’s the only time I’ll see them. But they always make it a real point to come and shop small,” Tanaka said.
For Natalie Demotte, owner of Top Knot on Colorado Boulevard, the Shop Small event offers a welcome and personal change of pace from shopping online or at large retailers.
“The more [people] spend in the community, the more [small businesses] spend in the community, so keeping it in your community is really fulfilling,” Demotte said.
In organizing the Shop Small event, Lin hopes to maintain the close relationship between Eagle Rock business owners and the community, in addition to supporting the unique character of the neighborhood.
“It’s definitely important to keep a small town like Eagle Rock alive and unique. There’s a lot of retail stores that have closed over the last two years and you’ll see that if they don’t stay in business, then there will be some more big chain stores popping up because the small business can’t afford to be here anymore,” Lin said. “We want to keep the neighborhood unique.”