The Herald-Sun | April Dudash
Robot coin banks. North Carolina necklaces. Soap for dogs. Holiday gift hunters packed the Durham Armory Saturday, looking for unique and odd finds to put under the tree.
After people lined up for hours outside big department stores on Black Friday, local businesses and artists in Durham opened their doors and displayed their wares for Small Business Saturday. About 100 vendors from around the region attended the Rock and Shop Market at the Armory on Saturday, officially kicking off their handmade and personalized version of the gift-giving season. For Matt Butler of Raleigh, who creates linocut prints and customized TOMS shoes, the Rock and Shop Market is about introducing his work to the public. People walked past his prints on display, which were adorned with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer bottles and fixed speed bikes. 'More time and care was put into the creation of it,' Butler said of local business offerings. He pointed to a sign, adorned with red strips of bacon that read, 'Either you love bacon or you're wrong,' and said that was a bestseller. Samantha Kramer of Durham said she started selling her prints on Etsy, a website of handmade and vintage goods, about five years ago. On Saturday, she was surrounded by her handmade cards and framed prints, to include hipster reindeer, heartthrob Ryan Gosling in a Santa hat, saying, 'Ho Girl,' and a 'Happy Ugly Sweater Season' Christmas card. 'If you need a toaster, you have to buy something that's mass produced,' Kramer said about Black Friday shopping. 'When you're looking for gift items, you don't have to go that route.' A few blocks away on South Gregson Street, families stepped into Morgan Imports to find a dozen Christmas trees already on display, filled with glittery ornaments and little stuffed animals for sale. Holiday lights lined the warehouse and fake icicles shimmered in the windows. 'Santa Baby' played throughout the store, and toddlers curiously walked around a life-sized stuffed reindeer. Cary resident Sue Perkinson picked up small stuffed Santa figures and examined rows of blown glass ornaments on display. She said she was doing a good portion of her shopping this weekend. 'This is the greatest shop to pick Christmas presents for friends,' Perkinson said, 'and it's so much fun to see all the beautiful, beautiful Christmas ornaments.' Co-owner Jacqueline Morgan said their customers start asking when they'll start decorating for Christmas in September. Little by little, they begin introducing their holiday goods in October, before they turn the entire store in a winter wonderland. The Small Business Saturday participant is no stranger to Durham -- Morgan Imports has been around since 1969 and for 23 years alone in its current warehouse location. 'You do it because it keeps the money here,' Morgan said of shopping local. 'When the independent stores really die, there will be no more originality. ... The merchandise selection is unique and reflects the personality of those involved.' Her friend, Betsy Harrington, was in the shop that day, visiting from Burlington and showing off the musical wind chimes she sells. She says there's a 'buzz' that surrounds small-business holiday shopping. 'It's an experience,' Harrington said. 'This is one of the better stores.' Down the street at Magpie Boutique, owner Po-Ming Wong helped customers looking at beaded necklaces and short cocktail dresses. The boutique has been around for four years, and they even help customers with styling tips. There's a certain level of service that comes with shopping with a small business, Wong said. During the holidays, 'we have a lot of men come in shopping for their significant others,' she said. 'It's really sweet. It's adorable.' She said their short dresses sell well, to include their Brazilian Cecilia Prado line, as well as their jewelry selection. She said other local businesses to try are clothing and accessory store Cozy, Jack Mens Provisions, Vert & Vogue boutique and Smitten boutique. It's not about the competition here, Wong said. 'It's just a sense of community, that having the brick-and-mortar store is so old-school and we think it's so important,' she said. 'We all support each other.'