St. Augustine business owners encourage people to shop small

Number of St. Augustine stores were damaged by Hurricane Matthew

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Many may be hitting the big-name retailers for some holiday shopping on Black Friday, but local business owners are encouraging people to shop small, especially for Small Business Saturday.

One of the places that really needs the help is St. Augustine, where a number of stores were damaged by Hurricane Matthew, which tore through the area 48 days ago.

A lot of the small businesses in Saint Augustine took a very hard hit from the hurricane, both physically and financially. The people who work there, who make their livings off the shops, are now hoping the holidays will help them recover.

The busy streets and crowded sidewalks are a welcome sight. It looks a whole lot better than it did about a month and a half ago when Hurricane Matthew ripped through the historic city.

"It hit pretty, pretty hard," said Tia Manucy, of Southern Lights Candle Company. "With all the businesses, especially right here, because we are literally right behind the seawall."

They tell customers to come in just for the smell of it, but the Bayfront candle shop was burnt out for a bit because it flooded. Business there took a dip.

"We are thankful for the holiday season at least," Manucy said.

"So are you trying to make up for the money that you lost?" asked News4Jax's Vic Micolucci.

"Yes, definitely," Manucy said. "Now is the time for everybody."

Local workers hope Small Business Saturday will give them the support they need.

"We are open. We are here," said Joyce Hayes, owner of The Starving Artist. "Just come out and support us. We are all local. These are people that are local mouths to feed."

The owner of The Starving Artist shop is hoping the holidays are full of customers. She lost about $17,000 worth of art in the storm and around that much in business, too, while the store was closed.

"We were about 3 feet of water inside the shop," Hayes said. "Then we had a lot of roof damage. We had a tree fall on the back of the building and it took out the whole back of our store."

Many business owners said they're struggling right now and haven’t been able to bounce back yet, but they're optimistic and thankful for the shoppers who are coming in and doing their part, one purchase at a time.

"We've been small-business owners for 30 years, so we know what it's like to keep it home," shopper Randy Harris said.

"They bounce back really quick down here. I found out. But yeah, any way that you can support unity is definitely a good way to do it," shopper Dennis Crawford said.

Even if people can't make it to the town in person, a lot of the shops have websites, and they have put all their products online. In fact, some of the owners said they're going to be running their in-store sales on the internet as well.

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