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In tough year, small businesses hope holiday shoppers carry them into 2021

Old Town Alexandria is supporting its small businesses with 10 days of giveaways and deals

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Battered by the pandemic and battling stiff competition from online retailers, small businesses are looking to holiday shoppers to keep them afloat.

And you can help them.

Communities across the country spent Saturday celebrating Small Business Saturday, a program designed to promote local shops.

In Alexandria, city officials took things a step farther.

There, businesses and city organizers are hosting a ten-day festival of deals and giveaways. It's concentrated in Old Town Alexandria on King Street, where 16 blocks play host to dozens of locally owned stores and restaurants.

"COVID has definitely created extreme challenges for our small businesses and they've adapted in really creative ways," said Visit Alexandria Vice President of Communications Claire Mouledoux.

According to her, they've offered curbside shopping, private appointments, and even FaceTime shopping to help them get through the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions.

Now that shops are opening back up, in-person business is an option once again.

Victoria Vergason, owner of a vintage barware store, says holiday shoppers this season could make or break some small businesses.

"[It] is a very, very critical time for small businesses to be able to make their profits and run into the next year," she said.

It's not just the businesses that benefit, either.

"I have several employees and they're all local," said Vergason.

Thanks to continued customer support, she's been able to keep them on the payroll so far.

She's hopeful that will continue, and that other local businesses are equally lucky.

And to those who are tempted to just do all their shopping this year at big-box online retailers, Vergason's message is simple.

"Give us a try," she said. "There's nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Vergason's store, The Hour, does online as well as in-person sales. Many other small businesses on King Street do the same.

Shop Small Week in Alexandria runs until December 7.