Sip n Shop

This will only be Dillinger’s second installment of their “Holiday Sip & Shop,” but co-owner Ann Clement expects it to be the bar’s busiest event of the year. Courtesy

Shop Small Saturday is looking a little bit smaller this year.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t businesses in downtown Cheyenne celebrating the important community day.

Since 2010, American Express has marketed Shop Small Saturday as an event looking to encourage shopping with small businesses nationwide on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but the pandemic changed their approach.

Esther Gonzales, business development and relations specialist for the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber used to be in contact with American Express farther in advance, but this year, things fell through.

The Chamber would coordinate with American Express to promote which local businesses would be participating that year, receiving packages of marketing material in celebration of the event. Instead, the push has been for year-round support of local businesses, rather than just one day, leading to a decreased emphasis on Nov. 27.

“We need to just change the mentality during holidays that it only happens on that Shop Small Saturday,” Gonzalez said. “It happens every day of the week, so we need to support those shops, those small mom-and-pop stores.”

The Chamber is keeping a register of small businesses that are interested in being listed as a part of Cheyenne’s Shop Small Saturday, but as of Wednesday afternoon, the list was still relatively short.

Where there has been a bigger emphasis on coordinating Shop Small Saturday in the past, this year, the Chamber is leaving the event up to each individual business.

“We do want to make sure that people are shopping with them throughout the holiday season and do what we can to support them,” Elizabeth Bennett, marketing and communications coordinator for the Cheyenne Chamber, said. “We are definitely looking at ways we can expand in the years to come, but as far as this year, it’s going to be pretty simple.”

The majority of the Chamber’s time is being devoted to the 31st Annual Christmas Parade, which will occur on the same day. Both the Chamber and small businesses in downtown Cheyenne are hoping that the parade festivities, coupled with chilling weather, might corral residents indoors.

Two downtown businesses, in particular, are hosting events of their own in celebration of local independent artists.

Ann Clement, co-owner of Dillinger’s Bar, said that she remembers there being a bigger national push for the event, even recalling the commercials run by American Express. She still feels the day should be emphasized, even though she supports the idea that small businesses should be supported year-round.

“You should support your small businesses all the time, but when everyone’s out paying extra, it makes sense to push the small business at least for a day,” Clement said. “It’s just one day.”

For Shop Small Saturday, Dillinger’s will be hosting its fifth installment of its Sip & Shop event, where 15 vendors will be set up in the open event space of the bar, selling items ranging from photography to fine leatherwork.

Customers can order drinks from the bar to carry around the premises, shopping various goods on display by independent artists.

Clement introduced the idea last November, seeking out local artists without brick-and-mortar locations and offering them a space to showcase their work.

The event ended up being their biggest of the year. With a reduced staff due to COVID-19, Clement worked from 8 a.m. until midnight, when she was tending the bar.

She is expecting an even bigger turnout this year.

“I think having had businesses that were able to survive COVID, people really want to support their community businesses,” Clement said. “People will be out looking for ways to do that, as opposed to shopping the big boxes or the mall.”

Having a major event like the Christmas parade occurring simultaneously does spark the hope for an increase in foot traffic. There is a chance that Sip & Shop, seen through the wide windows of the Array building as people pass by, can lure them in from the cold.

She hopes for the same results for the surrounding businesses of the downtown area.

“I’m close friends with a couple of the business owners downtown, and they’ve always told me that the Shop Small Saturday is a great day for them,” Clement said.

Two blocks away, Art at The Hynds is hosting its first ever Shop Small Saturday Arts and Crafts fair which will feature seven independent artists of varying media. Barb Biehler will have a booth for Western Themed Pillows, and another artist, Susan Londe, will present a unique collection of wire and rock sculptures.

“They are all excited, and we are all excited about it,” Donna Dupont-Schultz, Hynds co-op artist, said. “I even wish it could be a few more days.”

The underlying goal of the event is to not only bring people into the Hynds Building, but to give local artists and their work a platform to gain exposure. Selling art in Cheyenne can be difficult, so attracting people inside for such an event can make all the difference.

The event gives smaller artists a physical space to promote their work, rather than just online shopping.

“Even if you do it full time, whatever your art or your craft is, I think that’s always a big challenge is to really sort of show yourself and show what you love,” said Denise Patton, the newest resident at the Hynds co-op.

Patton, along with other members DuPont-Schultz and Val Martin, will be running the event, with Emma’s Old Time Photography having a special Christmas themed set piece designed by Martin.

The artists at the co-op will also be selling Christmas items, such as wreaths, vintage ornaments and Christmas lights.

While she is selling some of her larger paintings, Dupont-Schultz is putting together a collection of 4x4 dimension works that make for affordable holiday gifts. The hope is that they can bring in more buyers from the crowd that typically just stops in to admire the artists’ work.

To aid with the Shop Small event, the Downtown Development Authority is hosting a sweepstakes to encourage residents to get out and support small businesses through Nov. 30. It’s the first time they have held the event.

If one texts a photo of a receipt from a small business located in downtown Cheyenne, they are automatically entered to win $1,000 toward three downtown businesses of their choice.

“There are so many awesome places to shop, eat and do things,” Amber Trevizo, events and special projects coordinator of the DDA, said. ”It’s just kind of a way to get people exploring downtown and seeing all of the amazing, awesome things that Cheyenne actually does have to offer.”

Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at wcarpenter@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.

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