With the holiday season underway, shoppers do not have to focus entirely on Black Friday as local businesses in the Port Isabel and South Padre Island area are available during Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, which is part of a nationwide movement known as “Shop Small,” occurs the Saturday after Thanksgiving and is a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration website.

Local businesses in the area are gearing up to participate in the “Shop Small” movement taking place across the nation.

Valerie Bates, the marketing director for the City of Port Isabel, said she having locals and visitors take part in Small Business Saturday provides numerous advantages for the city.

“ It does support the local economy, but it also gives the shopper a unique shopping experience,” Bates said. “The small businesses that surround our lighthouse square take great care in what they stock their shelves with. There’s not much overlap at all from shop to shop, each has its own specialty. From the shopper’s perspective, they’re getting a very unique shopping experience. They can park, shop all day, dine and enjoy themselves while they walk away with some unique collectables or gifts.”

Betty Wells, president of the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce, said Downtown Port Isabel already helps shine a spotlight on small businesses of the city all year.

“ Obviously, shopping local is something we promote all year, but especially during the holidays,” Wells said. “I don’t think many people that live here know what exceptional items are in the stores around town, especially around the square.”

She added local shops do a good job in marketing their businesses and the inventory they contain.

“ I would really recommend that before people go to McAllen or Harlingen or Brownsville to shop that they take a look closer to home first,” Wells said. “Take your time and go into these businesses. There’s a wealth of items that they can choose from, such as antiques, artworks or things that are reminiscing to the coastal area. There’s a lot for them to see and choose from.”

Bates said it is important for the community to have a healthy downtown area, as it can help bring a positive impact citywide.

“ Most of the businesses, restaurants, attractions and activities are mom-and-pop owned, so they employ the local workforce and that’s important,” she said. “Business retention is important and all these businesses collect, of course, sales taxes that go to support a lot of programs that the City of Port Isabel is trying to do to create and retain businesses and jobs. What downtown Port Isabel has to offer in terms of economic impact is very, very important to our big picture.”

Sales taxes collected go toward the economic development and growth of Port Isabel, Wells said. The money is used to keep the city clean and appealing for tourists.

“ The city puts an awful lot of time, money and effort into making our community attractive,” Wells said. “From the Christmas decorations this time of year to the work that they do constantly on the medians and keeping the streets clean, it all costs. When visitors shop here, that money does go back into our local economy.”

For Port Isabel, it is the only Texas town that has a lighthouse in its center square, so it serves as a beacon for tourism, Bates said.

“ But without the local business community around the base of it and the experience it can offer, from a fishing pier to restaurants or bars to shopping or a coffee shop, without all that, the experience would not be complete,” she said.

Wells said the city is expecting a good turnout during the holiday season and encourages local residents and visitors to shop during Small Business Saturday.

“ We have a lot of winter visitors who have already arrived and we want to see more of our locals out and about as well,” she said. “We wish happy holidays and encourage them to explore Port Isabel, even if they live here.”

By Jesus Sanchez Coastal Current Weekly