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Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to shop locally

Suwanee resident Amy Hoychick makes a purchase for her cats Wednesday at Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery at Suwanee Town Center Park. Employee Dawn Yardley of Gainesville rings the transaction. Pooch in Paws is just one of many examples of small businesses in Gwinnett County and this Saturday — Small Business Saturday — is all about those types of businesses. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

Suwanee resident Amy Hoychick makes a purchase for her cats Wednesday at Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery at Suwanee Town Center Park. Employee Dawn Yardley of Gainesville rings the transaction. Pooch in Paws is just one of many examples of small businesses in Gwinnett County and this Saturday — Small Business Saturday — is all about those types of businesses. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

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Lorena Nowicky and Jon Moore, both of Johns Creek, look at jerseys made to fit dogs at Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

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Cat collars hang on a display at Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

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A display of dog toys sits on a shelf at Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

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Dog clothing hangs in a display inside Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery in Suwanee. (Staff Photo: Deanna Allen)

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Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery in Suwanee offers self-service grooming, pictured here, as well as full-service grooming. (Special Photo: Deanna Allen)

SUWANEE — Just three months ago, Starla and Bob Pellegrino moved their small business — Pooch N Paws Pet Boutique and Bakery at Suwanee Town Center Park — into a larger storefront.

The move came thanks to the growth of the business

“We kind of reached our maximum size of what we could sell and we wanted to make it bigger and offer more to the customers,” Bob Pellegrino said. “We were able to expand some of our food lines and some of the services.”

The boutique has been open for a little more than three years now and carries a full line of pet accessories for dogs and cats, including beds, bowls, apparel, collars, harnesses and leashes, carriers, spa products and toys, and the store also stocks a large variety of natural and holistic dog and cat food. The boutique also offers self-service and full-service grooming as well as temporary pet sitting services.

Pooch in Paws is just one of many examples of small businesses in Gwinnett County — there are just 10 employees — and this Saturday is all about those types of businesses.

Small Business Saturday is a relatively new initiative. It was started in 2010 by American Express and encourages consumers to shop at local, small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Last year, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, consumers spent more than $5.5 billion dollars at small and independent businesses on Small Business Saturday.

“A lot of the local people will take advantage of that and they support us,” Bob Pellegrino said. “The facts that they state, about 65 percent of the dollars that are spent at a small business stays in a community, that is true. Absolutely true. We believe that wholeheartedly.”

According to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, there are nearly 28 million small businesses in America today employing more than half of all U.S. residents, and during the past 20 years, small businesses were responsible for creating 64 percent of net new jobs.

Based on the 2011 Census, Gwinnett was home to 20,920 businesses, with 15,651, or 75 percent, of those employing fewer than 10 people. About 85 percent of those businesses had fewer than 20 employees.

“People want the personal experiences often associated with buying local and ‘shopping small,’” said Vince DeSilva, senior vice president for membership services for the Gwinnett Chamber. “Small Business Saturday is just one opportunity this holiday season for consumers to easily contribute to local economic growth and a greater sense of community.”

As an added incentive to shop at locally-owned small businesses in Gwinnett on Saturday, the chamber is hosting a photo contest. Participants can simply upload a photo of themselves shopping at a boutique, specialty shop or any other Gwinnett small business for a chance to win one of 50 American Express gift cards, valued at $25 each, or 25 Buy in Gwinnett cards.

Photos can be posted on the chamber’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/gwinnettchamber or on Twitter with the phrase, “I’m celebrating @ShopSmall with the @GwinnettChamber!” Winners will be chosen at random.

“The Gwinnett Chamber is proud to support and champion the ‘Small Business Saturday’ efforts of American Express which recognizes the importance of supporting small businesses in Gwinnett County and the jobs they help create within our local community,” DeSilva said. “This special day for our small businesses can only complement our year-round, and newly launched, ‘Buy In Gwinnett’ discount card program that was conceived and designed to do the same, convey a message to our Gwinnett consumers that shopping local and including our small businesses in their buying decisions helps build a stronger, more vibrant Gwinnett community.”