Small Business Saturday in Santa Fe comes with two hours free metered parking downtown and a gross receipts tax holiday statewide at qualifying small businesses.

The tax savings could be tricky because last year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving many merchants and customers weren’t even aware there was a Small Business Saturday tax holiday, which was in its first year.

Only 41 businesses statewide submitted $63,297 in Small Business Saturday tax holiday deductions through their reporting to the state last year, said Charlie Moore, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Taxation & Revenue.

In Santa Fe, shopping at small businesses could come with a savings of 8.4375 percent, the tax rate in the capital city.

“This is a great opportunity for all of us to support home-grown, New Mexico businesses as we do our holiday shopping,” Taxation & Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a news release.

Santa Fe has no Small Business Saturday “neighborhood champion” or local organizer as 25 other New Mexico cities do, usually undertaken by chambers of commerce, Small Business Development Centers or Mainstreet programs.

But Santa Fe businesses are taking part, ordering signs, pins and bags from the national Small Business Saturday organization, an entity of American Express.

Santa Fe has a thriving small business sector, unlike many cities with a glut of vacant retail spaces. Small Business Saturday here is more a celebration of small business, said Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, a Small Business Saturday spokeswoman who lives in Colorado.

“Santa Fe is a place where people shop small year-round,” said Reyhle, publisher of Retail Minded, a news, education and support website for small business. “Santa Fe has done such a good job attracting small businesses.”

Kim Ulibarri, who with her mother Virginia and brother John owns LJS of Santa Fe, a shop near the Plaza that sells jewelry and other Southwestern merchandise, sees a similar dynamic. “The one thing that is amazing about Santa Fe is the city protects small business,” Ulibarri said. “They turned downtown into a place that is safe from huge corporations.”

The city of Santa Fe and downtown merchants are collaborating for the ninth year to offer two hours of free on-street metered parking, which will continue for five Saturdays through December.

Merchants, led by Design Warehouse owner Larry Keller, each give the city $100 as a token subsidy for the estimated $114,500 in lost parking meter revenue, Noel Correia, the city’s parking division director, said in a letter to merchants.

Fifty-five merchants made the $100 payment in 2018, city spokeswoman Lilia Chacon said.

Correia in his letter wrote the city “has agreed to participate in this joint venture… to help stimulate economic activity and encourage holiday shopping in downtown Santa Fe and the Railyard Business District.”

American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 as a promotion during the recession. The concept, also branded as Shop Small, caught on immediately. In 2011, the U.S. Senate designated the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday. Cities around the country quickly adopted the idea, whether signing up with the American Express program or on their own.

Kim Ulibarri has enthusiastically taken part in Small Business Saturday for seven years, putting up the American Express signs and making her own signs, too. LJS of Santa Fe is the San Francisco Street shop that has a 90-foot-long, eight-foot-wide outdoor corridor leading to its front door. The corridor itself is a tourist attraction with summer visitors taking pictures daily of the odd approach to a storefront.

National Geographic took a picture of our hallway,” John Ulibarri said. “One time it was on a Realtor’s site, too.”

Business has increased 30 percent on Small Business Saturday since she started taking part, Kim Ulibarri said.

“Before Small Business Saturday, we had Black Friday and then it would go quiet over the weekend,” she said. “There is definitely more foot traffic.”

Tourists make up 80 percent of LJS customers across the year, 95 percent during summer, but Small Business Saturday sees as much as 50 percent local shoppers.

“I benefit from Small Business Saturday all year,” she said.

Ulibarri uses social media to leverage Small Business Saturday beyond the one designated day.

“When you use the hashtag #small business or #small business Saturday, people click on your business that don’t usually click on your business,” Ulbarri said. “Throughout the year, I use the hashtags. I was surprised how many people responded to the hashtag and contacted me.”

She also is using social media to determine the winner of a drawing for a “basket of goodies” on Small Business Saturday.

“If they take a photo of the store or hallway and tag me, they will be entered into a drawing,” Ulibarri said. “The winner will be the one with the most likes on Facebook or Instagram.”

In addition to jewelry, LJS — originally Long John Silver Turquoise Treasure Chest of Santa Fe, named for the Ulibarri siblings’ father — offers “kind of a mish-mash of Southwestern items.”

Small businesses may not have the huge discounts of big-box retailers, but Ulibarri plans to have 20 percent off on jewelry and 30 percent off on pottery.

“We usually offer cookies and refreshments and we play music outside, usually oldies. Sometimes I’ll play Christmas music,” Ulibarri said. “For at least two or three days after, (shoppers) ask if we would still honor Small Business Saturday discounts. They are still looking for deals. People come in: ‘What is your deal today?’”

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