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Andrea Langworthy's column: Save the date!

Mark your calendar. Small Business Saturday is almost here.

The retail holiday, held on the fourth Saturday of November, is a day set aside to shop at small stores. Not online, not infringing on a major holiday, not in the middle of the night, but in person during normal business hours.

Called “a counterpart to” Black Friday and Cyber Monday on one website, Small Business Saturday is described as “a reaction” to the two on another.

I was oblivious to Cyber Monday and never spent the Monday after Thanksgiving shopping ’til I dropped on the Web. Shopping the day after Thanksgiving, though? I tried it in 1985. Long before it was called Black Friday.

My daughter and I woke up early so we could be first in line at an electronics chain store well before the 8 a.m. opening. Our plan was to scoop up two bargain-priced portable black and white televisions. As we got close to the store, though, I could see customers lined up all the way to the street.

My teenager reminded me every product in the ad had a “limited supply” disclaimer. I scanned the people in line and knew if it came to arm wrestling someone over the “below cost” black-and-whites, my first-born and I would lose. I threw the ad in the back seat and we left.

Over the years, my husband and I returned to that big box store many Sundays. We walked from one end of the building to another and no one offered to help us. One day, we waved at a group of sales associates, trying to catch someone’s attention. They were deeply engaged in conversation. Not with a customer; with each other.

I hate to be a naysayer but it’s hard to find good service at big businesses nowadays. That must be why a friend of mine likes to shop at specialty stores in small towns. “Boutique-y,” she calls them. When her daughter visits from another state, they always head to these places to find new duds.

My friend likes the unique things she finds in these small shops. I’m sure she’s greeted with a friendly hello when she walks in and probably a “let me know what I can help you with,” too.

My mother often shopped for clothing at stores like that. My sister and I liked to go with her.

We tagged along when Mom shopped at Dayton’s, Donaldson’s and Powers, too. Big stores, but each one had a small store feel. Maybe because they were divided into departments and each section was its own entity. The salespeople knew their merchandise and greeted Mom like she was an old friend.

I especially remember the handkerchief counter at Young-Quinlan’s in downtown Minneapolis. The salesperson stood patiently behind the counter waiting for Mom to point out a hanky that caught her eye. When Mom said, “that one,” the woman put her gloved hand into the case and gently extracted the exquisite piece of fabric. I should say, “Ah, the good old days” here, right?

I don’t want to tell you what to do. Interrupt your Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday evening to participate in Black Friday if you must to get a head start on your holiday shopping. Sit at your computer the following Monday to shop for deals if that’s your style.

In-between, on Saturday, Nov. 30, go back to the good old days. Grab a latté at a locally owned coffee shop and find a small business that will welcome you with open arms on Small Business Saturday.