BRATTLEBORO -- Paul Nadeau, a longtime employee at Sam's Outdoor Outfitters, said it was a good weekend for shopping.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is the traditional kick-off time for holiday shopping and a national Small Business Saturday campaign encouraged consumers to think about where they shop and spend their holiday dollars.

An unusual cold snap chased some people off the ski mountain, and into the stores, but a bright and sunny weekend kept the streets of Brattleboro bustling with people looking for bargains and wanting to support the local economy.

As he looked over the crowded sales floor at Sam's Saturday afternoon Nadeau said there was only one little thing he would change.

"We could use eight or 10 inches of snow. Then our footwear department would take off," he said. "Otherwise it's been great. This is what we need."

Small Business Saturday was first officially recognized in 2010 as a day between Black Friday, when bargain hunters hit the malls, and Cyber Monday, when shoppers hit the Internet for holiday deals.

Building a Better Brattleboro promoted the shopping holiday this weekend and shop owners and managers around town said after a couple of sluggish years in the economy, and the town's ongoing recovery from the Brooks House Fire and Tropical Storm Irene, it could be a good season to continue moving forward

"It looks like money has loosened up a little bit," Nadeau said. "We have a lot of local people and we also have a lot of people who stop here on the way to the mountains. This time a year we do a real good business. They know they can stop here and get quality merchandise and get a good deal. A lot of people have been stopping here every year."

Marcia Broome lives near Hartford and was visiting family in central Vermont.

On her way home Saturday she said she was happy to spend the day in Brattleboro and stay way from the crowded mall parking lots.

"We like to spend our money locally and support these businesses," she said.

A number of downtown merchants said business was good during the days following Thanksgiving. In the photo shoppers leave Sam’s with bags of holiday
A number of downtown merchants said business was good during the days following Thanksgiving. In the photo shoppers leave Sam's with bags of holiday gifts. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)
"A lot of the stuff we get here we can't find in the big stores anyway."

Missy Galanes, who owns Galanes' Vermont Shop, agreed that there seems to be a slow but steady shift in the economy that is encouraging for small business owners.

Galanes said she had a pretty good summer and foliage season and is hoping business stays steady right on up to Christmas.

After owning a downtown business for years, Galanes says she can expect a slight slowdown in the coming week of two, and then in the final days leading up to Christmas Galanes says the streets will hopefully be filled again.

Galanes said she noticed a large number of visitors to Brattleboro over the weekend and traffic was good in and out of the store all weekend.

"Business has been good this year," she said. "A lot of people wait for the last minute. It'll pick up straight on through."

At the Brattleboro Winter Farmers' Market crowds walked up and down the aisles at the River Garden, stocking up on food, as well as crafts for the holidays.

Ceramic artist Shari Zabriskie said the Saturday market was the best of the season, with a nice mix of tourists and locals looking, and more importantly, buying.

"This is the third market of the season and this was my best one so far," she said. "There's always locals but we have tourists here too, and they're all buying."

Yudah Huestis, an assistant store manager at Sam's, said even on Friday the store was filled with shoppers.

Huestis said she noticed a large number of local residents in the store Friday, and then lots of visitors on Saturday.

"It seemed like everyone from Brattleboro was here yesterday which was wonderful," she said. "They can get electronic stuff on the Internet and this is where they come to get the good stuff, the heavy duty clothes. It is very nice."

During Gallery Walk Friday the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce will host the annual holiday tree lighting at Pliny Park at the corner of High and Main Streets in downtown Brattleboro.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.