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Small businesses hosting holiday market amid struggles of pandemic

Pinellas County

GULFPORT, Fla. (WFLA) – As people are getting ready to shop for holiday gifts there’s an emphasis to shop local as small businesses have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

“We were probably having our best year ever since 2011 and it came to a screeching halt,” said Robynne Swanson, owner of the Red Hot Tiki Spicy Gourmet Market.

For local vendors, the year 2020 has been as unhealthy for business as the coronavirus has for humans.

“It’s been extremely rough. You know, barely selling enough to pay the rent,” said Carla Bristol, owner of Gallerie 909. Her gallery features African-American artwork and sells unique clothes, accessories, and prints that are one of a kind.

Many had to shut their doors and business has been slow to come back. Others travel to sell their goods.

“It’s been a challenge because until this month we haven’t had a trade show since February. Fortunately, we work off of referrals and things like that, but it’s been a challenge,” said Chris Turley, owner of Sentimental Art. Sentimental Art is a studio that turns photos into artwork.

Now as the holiday shopping season ramps up there’s a push, more important than ever, to shop local.

“Those of you who can actually support a small business instead of a larger store it goes so much further and these small businesses fuel our economy,” said Bristol.

The city of Gulfport is doing that with their Shop Small Holiday Market on Saturday, bringing together over 100 vendors at a socially safe distance and with other COVID-19 protections, and letting people find unique gifts for loved ones.

“Some of these vendors have had very little opportunities to sell that this is a great way for them to get back in the game,” said Swanson.

Those who can’t make it Saturday can shop online through a local website that makes it convenient for people looking to keep their money in the local economy.

“Basically all the vendors in Gulfport are on You can peruse through it. It’s free. Every single penny that you spend goes to that particular business,” said Pat Largo with LocalShops1, the makers of the new website.

The Shop Small Holiday Market is happening this Saturday from 10 a.m until 7 p.m at 3101 Beach Blvd S in Gulfport, FL. There will be free parking, and everyone is expected to be socially distant and to wear masks. You can find more information on their events page.

Those who don’t want to come out or can’t you can find a lot of these vendors online on

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