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Hampden boasts indie shops, quirky culture on Small Business Saturday

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Posted at 9:36 AM, Nov 25, 2016
and last updated 2017-08-23 19:23:18-04

For holiday gifts handpicked and handcrafted by local business owners, Hampden is a one-stop shop.

From vinyl records and antiques, to vintage clothes and quaint eateries, the north Baltimore neighborhood is home to about 160 small businesses.

“We are an organically developed, independent shopping district,” said Benn Ray, owner of comic book staple Atomic Books and president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, a group that also represents shops in the Woodberry, Medfield, Roland Park and Remington districts.

“You won’t find a Starbucks here, you won’t find your chain stores. What you find is a bunch independent businesses which reflect the tastes, styles and personalities of the business owners. It’s not cookie-cutter shopping. It’s unique shopping for unique people,” he said.

The pivot toward supporting local entrepreneurs became a nationally recognized movement back in 2010 when American Express ushered in Small Business Saturday. In 2015, an estimated 95 million people shopped locally on the day, marked annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Ray said 65 cents out of every dollar stays within the community when you shop small, compared to 15 cents spent at big chain stores, a financial contribution that has far-reaching effects in neighborhoods like Hampden.

“If you want to improve the fabric of your community, the thing you should do is shop local,” he said.

This season, Hampden shoppers can expect special coupons and discounts at select stores on Nov. 26. Grab a free tote bag after you spend a certain amount at Atomic Books, and stick around for the annual lighting of Miracle on 34th Street.

Sue Caldwell, owner of yarn shop Lovely Yarns is offering homemade cupcakes to customers Saturday. Shopping locally has helped keep her doors open for almost 11 years.

“Without people coming to shop small businesses there’s no way we could stay alive,” she said. “We depend on people coming and purchasing from us for our livelihood. That’s our blood.”

Follow Andrea Boston on Twitter @AndreaFromABC2.

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