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Little Boxes tradition taps local shopping spirit

Hometown merchants offer deals to draw shoppers on big weekend.


Photo Credit: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Local shops, like SpielWerks Toys on North Williams Avenue, hope shoppers take their dollars to their stores during the Little Boxes event Friday and Satuday, Nov. 28 and 29. Locally made wooden toys, like these clamps, were popular during the 2013 event.Portland shoppers can get their local-brewed coffee fix while shopping local on Black Friday this year.

Ristretto Roasters is one of a handful of new sponsors of the fourth annual Little Boxes tradition, Portland’s antidote to Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Happening Friday, Nov. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 29, at 211 stores across the city, Little Boxes rewards shoppers with discounts and incentives to explore the city's neighborhood shops.

Ristretto Roasters — the first food or beverage sponsor of the traditionally all-retail event — will offer $2 off of a 12-ounce bag of coffee beans, or one drink at half price (one discount per Little Boxes passport, available at stores or via iPhone app).

"We're a small business, providing a service everybody hopefully loves, and most people partake in every day," says Din Johnson, who opened Ristretto Roasters in North Portland 10 years ago. "The suport that locals give to local businesses is what makes Portland special. Traveling, you see a lot of chains, big-box stuff. Portland doesn't have a lot of that, at least in the metro area and neighborhoods. That's why people like Portland."

Now a holiday tradition, Little Boxes organizers anticipate a record 200,000 shoppers, thanks to how-to videos and an extra boost from new sponsors including New Seasons, Venture Portland, Living Room Realty, Umpqua Bank, OnPoint Community Credit Union and others. Last year’s additional revenue for the 200 participating stores is estimated at more than $1,453 per store on average.

Last season's sales figures also include:

• 15,489 total visits to shops (an estimated extra 79 customers per shop, compared to the same days in the previous year).

• A total of 4,528 purchases made at Little Box stores during the two-day event, including an extra 23 purchases per shop.

• About 29,000 raffle entries. This year's raffle grand prize is $2,000 toward airfare and hotel for two to Waikiki, San Diego or San Francisco. Other prizes include an iPad Air, shopping sprees, gift certificates, hotel stays and restaurant vouchers.

• 338,600 social media followers and fans among the 200 participating stores prior to the event weekend.

“Little Boxes is a uniquely Portland event — and has quickly become an annual celebration of local small business,” says City Commissioner Nick Fish, who last year issued Little Boxes a proclamation in honor of Small Business Saturday. “Neighborhood small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. They employ half of Portland’s workforce, and for every dollar we spend at a local small business, almost 70 cents stays in the local economy.”

Little Boxes cofounder Betsy Cross, owner at Northwest Portland boutique betsy & iya, says the event is about much more than just shopping.

“There’s no denying that all these different shops coming together for the same purpose in one city does something powerful," she says. "When the event takes place, one can feel that power of community, and it's really something special.”

For details: www.littleboxespdx.com.

On Twitter @jenmomanderson.

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