Ring in the Holiday Season and Shop Small on the 78 Corridor

Thanksgiving officially kicks off the holiday season, and for many small businesses along the 78 Corridor, it also marks the start of the busiest and most impactful time of their fiscal year.

Since 2010, cities across the U.S. have been participating in Small Business Saturday, a movement that encourages people to shop local during the holidays and support small businesses in their communities. American Express and the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) report that since its inception, Small Business Saturday spending has totaled more than $103 billion.  

Shop Small
Shop Small signage adorns the Carlsbad and Oceanside’s downtown shopping districts.

Based on research compiled by San Diego Regional EDC in collaboration with the five cities from Innovate78, small businesses make up 98 percent of businesses along the 78 Corridor. This vital economic engine is fueled by independent businesses of all stripes: artists and crafters, bakeries and chocolatiers, clothing boutiques and day spas, florists and jewelers, wineries and restaurants – all of which offer unique holiday gift-giving options and  one-of-a-kind shopping experiences.

As a former owner of a specialty shoe store and the current executive director of the Carlsbad Village Association, Christine Davis has experienced Small Business Saturday both as an event organizer and as a downtown storefront owner. She can attest to how much it boosts foot traffic and commerce in a city’s business district and increased revenue to local shops . So much so that Davis refers to Small Business Saturday as “our Superbowl, where locals come to the village, shop, stay for the day, have lunch, listen to great holiday music and have dinner.”

I know firsthand what it’s like to be a retailer, and I saw an increase in shoppers every year, year over year,” said Davis, who sold her small retail business last year. “It’s becoming increasingly common for the public to do Black Friday online and with the big box stores, and shop small and local on Small Business Saturday.” 

On Saturday, November 30, Carlsbad, Oceanside and Escondido will each host shop local events, where residents across the 78 Corridor are invited to take a stroll through downtown business districts and get a jump start on their holiday shopping. Participating merchants will be serving up big discounts and special promotions along with some neighborhood hospitality and holiday decor. As part of these campaigns, cities will also offer shopping passports or bingo cards, incentivizing consumers to visit participating eateries and retailers, as well as gift cards and one-of-a-kind raffle prizes donated by their small business communities. 

For Carlsbad and Oceanside, Small Business Saturday will be the first in a series of events taking place through the early weeks of December to celebrate the holidays and encourage local commerce.

Carlsbad Village Association
The Carlsbad Village Association booth and Oceanside shoppers at last year’s Shop Small events.

The Impact Of Shopping Local

There is a multiplier effect when shopping local on Small Business Saturday and beyond. Research from the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics shows that for every $100 spent at locally-owned businesses, $68 stays in the community verses $43 when that money is spent at a national chain. When people shop local, their money is reinvested in communities along the 78 Corridor through new job creation, payroll and local taxes, which in turn helps fund local parks, infrastructure, and law enforcement.

City organizations are working year-round to raise visibility for neighborhood merchants and provide them with opportunities to engage with their communities. Gumaro Escarcega, Program Manager with Oceanside Mainstreet, sees Small Business Saturday and holiday shopping events as vital programs that Village Associations and Mainstreet Organizations along the 78 Corridor put on to support the small businesses that don’t have the same e-commerce, strategy, and marketing resources as larger businesses. 

“The holiday season is a big opportunity for our retail businesses because it’s when consumers are seeking unique gifts and experiences, and our small businesses can provide that in a way big corporations cannot,” said Gumaro. “Small Business Saturday and holiday shopping events present opportunities for small businesses to be more competitive with online retailers, to increase sales, and continue to operate their business on a year-to-year basis.” 

Carlsbad small business owners
Carlsbad small business owners come together to promote 2019’s Shop Small campaign.

Events Along The 78 Corridor

For the hundreds of local and neighboring entrepreneurs without a storefront presence, Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Vista are hosting holiday gift fairs to connect people along the 78 Corridor with one-of-a-kind art, crafts, and handmade specialty products. 

Here is a shortlist of the upcoming 78 Corridor’s makers markets and craft fairs:

  • The Merry Makers Fair is a two-day pop-up event that will take place on Saturday, November 30th (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) and Sunday, December 1 (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.) in Downtown Oceanside’s Artist Alley (between Mission Avenue and Pier View Way). With the first day coinciding with Oceanside Mainstreet’s 12-day ‘Tis the Season to Shop Local campaign, the Merry Makers Fair will be a marketplace with a bevy of regional makers of handcrafted and artisanal goods selling art, jewelry, candles, macrame and more.
  • The Maker’s Market will be held on Saturday, December 7 (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.) in the heart of the Carlsbad Village. The Crafter’s Showcase with feature 50 local and regional artisans selling handmade, vintage, upcycled, and unique goods that highlight creativity in woodworking, leatherworking, 3D functional art, natural jewelry, beading, fabric, and artisan foods. 
  • The Holiday Mercato will take place Saturday, December 7 (11 a.m. – 4 p.m.) at the Beach House Winery in Oceanside. The family-friendly sip and shop event will showcase specialty products from a dozen local businesses and farmers including art, chocolates, jams and jellies, coffee, clothing, jewelry, cigars, honey, olive oils and vinegars. 
  • The Holiday Gift Market at Vista’s Winterfest will take place on Sunday, December 8 (2 p.m. – 7 p.m.). The Vista Village will transform into a craft-lovers bonanza featuring 75 retailers, artists and crafters. The family-friendly shopping event will also have live entertainment, a tree lighting ceremony, and roaming mariachi.  
Handmade crafts and products
Handmade crafts and products on display at Oceanside’s Holiday Mercato and Carlsbad’s Maker’s Market.

For A Third-Generation Chocolatier, Business is Sweeter in San Marcos 

Small business is the lifeblood of San Marcos’ economy with roughly 95 percent of the city’s businesses operating with 50 or fewer employees. 

“When we talk about small businesses, people instantly think of retail establishments but in San Marcos we also have a lot of small manufacturers that are part of the North County supply chain, making everything from shade sails for wholesale purchase to equipment for the defense economy,” said Tess Sangster, Economic Development Manager for San Marcos. 

A prime example of this type of business is Dallmann Fine Chocolates, which produces exquisite artisan chocolates from its San Marcos location.

Dallmann Fine Chocolates
Bella Knack of Dallmann Fine Chocolates puts a modern, artistic twist on traditional European chocolates.

Bella Knack grew up working in her family’s pastry cafe in St. Gilgen, Austria — a destination that rose in popularity after it was featured in the opening scene of the Sound of Music. While other kids went to the lake in the summer and skiing in the winter, Knack and her brother were serving coffee, chocolates, and pastries to tourists. 

When she was young, Knack didn’t particularly enjoy or appreciate her family’s business, and she certainly never dreamt about taking it over. She grew up watching Beverly Hills 90210 and Baywatch on television and was drawn to the U.S., particularly Southern California lifestyle.

After earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management in Salzburg, Bella landed a job at San Diego’s Westgate hotel in 2003, where she ran the hotel’s gourmet store specializing in European fine products. he received a call from someone in search of MozartKugel, an Austrian specialty chocolate that her father had long produced, and it sparked her interest in returning to Austria for a crash course in chocolate-making from her father. 

“I had always worked the front of the house in our family business so it was the first time I actually stepped foot into my father’s pastry kitchen to learn how to make chocolates,” said Bella Knack, Chocolatier and Owner of Dallmann Fine Chocolates. “For me, it was love at first sight. I knew that I wanted to return to the US and do more with it.”

Knack had an artistic vision for the Dallmann Fine Chocolates she would later launch in the states; one that blends the old and new worlds by taking her family’s confection recipes and adapting them with a modern twist. 

In 2008 Knack leased her first kitchen space in El Cajon but the rent was expensive, the location undesirable, and she spent far too much time commuting between work and home. Two years ago, with her third child on the way, Bella relocated to a 1600 square-foot commercial space in San Marcos that better suited both her growing business and family. 

“I’m now paying half the rent for twice the space and the business park layout perfectly fits my needs,” said Knack, who maintains an office up front, manufacturing in the middle, and a warehouse in the back of her new San Marcos headquarters. “My commute from home to work is six minutes and it has completely changed my quality of life for the better.”

Today, Dallmann Fine Chocolates employs six people and manufactures 35 different flavors which are sold direct online and at its retail storefront at The Headquarters in Seaport Village. The company also sells products wholesale to gourmet specialty shops, restaurants, and hotels, and provides custom-branded assortments to corporate customers. A few months ago, Dallmann Fine Chocolates began selling its products to Japan on Rakuten.

Dallmann Fine Chocolates
A sampling of customized Dallmann Fine Chocolates prepared for corporate customers.

On average, Dallmann produces around 20,000 pieces of chocolate every week, and it remains the only U.S. producer of MozartKugel. The holidays are an especially important time for the retail side of the business, which does nearly half of its annual sales between the months of November and February.

As Knack prepares for her busiest time of year, she feels incredibly supported by the city of San Marcos. She even admits being a bit surprised by all the hospitality, having been personally welcomed by both San Marcos’ Mayor Rebecca Jones and Economic Development Manager Tess Sangster.

“City officials have been so inviting and helpful, reaching out to me, making introductions and keeping me informed about what’s happening,” said Knack. “It is really refreshing to be in San Marcos and to know that there are people working really hard to make this an exciting place to work and live, for small businesses and residents.”

Knack expressed a tinge of guilt because so many people go to business school, have a plan and are really well prepared, but their businesses still fail. “I am really blessed. Here I am trying new things and not necessarily knowing where that will take me, but it’s worked out really well,” said Knack. “I am employing people, supporting my family of five and really enjoying what I’m doing.”

If you know someone who loves the gift of chocolate, Dallmann Fine Chocolates is offering a 10 percent discount to its neighbors along the 78 Corridor for the holidays. Order online using the discount code “innovate78”.