by Paula M. Riley

Owning a small business can feel like a constant David vs. Goliath battle. The Chestnut Hill business district is made up of mostly small businesses, known as “mom-and-pop retailers” who fight against free shipping and tax-free Internet shopping and pricing competition from superstores.

On Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Chestnut Hill Business Association is inviting residents and visitors to help these businesses fight this battle by participating in American Express’ Small Business Saturday.

Designed to encourage shopping at small brick and mortar businesses, Small Business Saturday was created in 2010 to tap into the holiday shopping market that superstores and online retailers enjoy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“We hope that everyone comes out and supports our businesses,” said Peggy Miller deputy director of finance at the Chestnut Hill Business Association (CHBA). “Having such a vibrant retail corridor is one of the reasons we were named Best of Philly for Main Street Shopping.

American Express is promoting the event nationally, and CHBA is spreading the word in Chestnut Hill. Customers using an American Express card will receive a $25 credit if they spend $25 or more on their card at a participating business that day.

Many store windows on the Avenue display the Small Business Saturday sign to show they are participating in the credit program. Some will be offering special sales as well.

“It is not easy running your own business,” said Kate O’Neill, CHBA deputy director of operations. “This event is designed to increase sales but also to remind everyone that these businesses need the support of their communities.”

Indigo Schuy opened last year and won Best of Philly 2012 for Women’s Activewear. Co-owner Schuy Wood Nunn credits the store’s success to a strong base of local customers as well as the growth of Chestnut Hill.

“The value lies in Chestnut Hill’s ability to draw customers from a fairly wide radius in the greater Philadelphia area,” she said. “While we enjoy terrific local support, we delight in the number of customers who come from the Main Line and northern suburbs to enjoy the unique shops and restaurants located here.”

Chill on the Hill frozen yogurt is opening soon, and Leslie Newbold and her business partner Alison Shoemaker hope that they too will gain a strong local base.

“Our yogurt is delicious and we think our space is great,” Newbold said, “But ultimately we are creating an experience and a culture. We hope that the community appreciates this culture.”

The pair has never opened a business before, and their road has been more than a little bumpy.

“We have learned so much more than we could ever fully express,” Newbold said. “Most of all, we have realized that collaboration will be key to our success.”

Chill on the Hill is already collaborating with local businesses and will be available for community groups to host events. The much anticipated Grand Opening is on Saturday, Nov 17,, and Chill on the Hill will participate in Small Business Saturday.

Mike Pieciuk, who is also a first-time business owner, is opening Primos Hoagies at the end of the month in the space once occupied by The Post Light on Bethlehem Pike. It is being totally renovated to support his plan of an open preparation space so customers can watch their meat and cheese being sliced fresh.

“I am opening Primos because I was a satisfied customer of Primos Hoagies for so long,” Pieciuk said. “I’m going to give Chestnut Hill what I always loved getting.”

Although Primos will not be open on Small Business Saturday, it does accept American Express.

Chestnut Hill’s A Taste of Olive is the fourth location for the small business event, but every opening and each location has its uniqueness. Customers are invited to visit one of the East Coast’s largest selection of extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars and specialty oils and vinegars from all over the world. They are all “on tap” for customers to sample.

Owner Nancy Smith explained that she was attracted to Chestnut Hill because the pedestrian traffic makes it easy to be more visible, and potential customers will be aware of her store more quickly. She accepts American Express and welcomes customers to sample any of the 75 oils and vinegars in the stainless steel fustinos.

All of the new business owners acknowledge their greatest challenges were finding the right space in Chestnut Hill and dealing with the city zoning and other requirements.

Miller said the support of community organizations has eased this.

“The Retail Recruiter, CHBA, BID, and CHCA are all fighting for our neighborhood and welcoming new businesses,” she said. “We can see that now it is finally really paying off.”

Nunn and her husband Steve believe their efforts with Indigo Schuy are paying off, and they appreciate the support of the CHBA.

“We are just so excited that our little dream has been so well received,” she said. “We’re so grateful for the customers – we have the best any business could hope for!”