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Small business owners welcome holiday crowds as COVID, shortages persist

The Manchester shops that popped up for the market hope the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a precursor for a holiday season packed with a lot of cheer and money.

MANCHESTER, Conn — Folks shopped on Small Business Saturday at the holiday market on Main Street in Manchester.

The local shops that popped up for the market hope the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a precursor for a holiday season packed with a lot of cheer and money.

They're also happy for a return to normalcy after a challenging holiday season last year because of COVID.

“Last year...there were only five of us. Five tables, no tents. And today, we have almost 40 vendors, so people are definitely coming out. They’re more comfortable this year,” said Joy Benzing, the owner of Center Street Soap Company.

RELATED: Hartford hosts Winterfair, a new holiday market with dozens of pop-up shops

Wildlife artist Amanda Surveski is also happy to see the crowds return.

“Last year was really, really tough," Surveski said. "It was pretty much all online and obviously if you don’t already have a large following online, it’s very hard to generate sales from that. It’s really great to be out today and meet people face to face.”

But in the shadows of tinsel and cheer, a "Grinch" is still lurking.

A recent jobs report from the National Federation of Independent Business (NIFB) found that 49-percent of its membership reported job openings they could not fill despite the record-high pay they were offering.

The NFIB also released a survey this month showing that 62-percent of small business owners say supply chain disruptions are worse now than three months ago, and 90-percent expect the problem to continue for the next five months or longer.

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“It’s been a struggle and with the economy too, just fighting with should I raise my prices or not. It’s been really difficult,” Surveski said.

Every business owner FOX61 spoke with said they're feeling the impacts of those issues.

“Sometimes I’m having a hard time sourcing boxes for soap or labels," Benzing said. "It's just trying to buy as much as you can when you can find it.”

“We’re doing the best that we can but we’re trying to deliver the best products to people and we’re doing it as fast as we can,” said Victoria Gleixner of B. Kind Boutique.

RELATED: Shippers prepare for pandemic holiday package rush

The message for shoppers? Shop early.

“Yes, you don’t know what’s going to be there. And also, if you’re buying online, to get a jump on that because we’re already hearing the mail is going to be backed up,” Benzing added.

Another message: Keep shopping local.

“Cause you’ll be supporting your neighbors. Keep that money in your community,” Benzing said.

Angelo Bavaro is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at abavaro@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Have a story idea or something on your mind you want to share? We want to hear from you! Email us at newstips@fox61.com

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