by Anja Wuolu
Pink balloons float in a perfect bouquet. Orange-scented cleaner removes dust from corners. Thumbs frantically type plans to employees. All around St. Joseph, people are preparing for the annual Shop Small Crawl event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26.
Orchestrated by Mary Bruno of Bruno Press, this event will feature 13 local businesses. A shuttle will be available to transport people from the different shops. Sales, snacks, artists and prizes will dominate the day.
Plump Joetown gift baskets hold artisanal pottery, apparel, organic tortilla chips, gift cards and more. These baskets are estimated to be worth $500 or more. Just a few lucky shoppers will bring home this bounty. How do shoppers enter for a prize? They download a free app called “Visit Greater St. Cloud.” Tapping the “Shop Small Crawl” icon opens a tab with all 13 participating businesses, each asking for a code. Every building in the crawl will display a unique code for its patrons. After entering at least seven of the 13 codes, the app will ask for an email and enter the person into the drawing. Shoppers not interested in prizes do not need to download the app.
Bruno expressed excitement about the event, though she wondered if 13 businesses were too many. Will shoppers become fatigued from visiting so many stops? The official list this year includes Milk & Honey Ciders, W|R Home, White Peony, Minnesota Street Market, Local Blend, Hudson & Company, Jupiter Moon, LaPlayette, Flour & Flower, Bad Habit, K Power Yoga & Eating Elevated, Cherrico Pottery and of course, Bruno Press.
Some businesses plan on keeping things classic and running business as usual. Other businesses are offering special deals, giveaways or free samples. White Peony, for instance, plans to have snacks and small gifts with purchases. K Power Yoga will run a buy-one-get-one-free sale on some workout apparel.
Cherrico Pottery, usually online-only, plans on opening the doors to its at-home studio. Shoppers will be invited inside to browse products like new mugs and stoneware oven bakers during the Shop Small Crawl.
“Cherrico Pottery, which is a new stop, I think is really gonna bring a lot of people,” Bruno said.
As we spoke, Certainly Wildflowers creator Megan Coleman welded a delicate gold chain to Bruno’s wrist. Coleman is one of several artists who will set up temporary tables for the day.
Certainly Wildflowers, Maine Prairie Studio, Rest in Clay, Pluck Flowers, Miss May’s, John the Potter, Tiger Tiger Studio, Long Shadow Woodworks, P&V Awesome Sauce, Paper Mountain Jewelry, Jelly Wine, Songbird Kitchens, Joe Singewald and Penny Press will be stationed along the crawl. The Minnesota Street Market has also invited some of their artists and authors to be present during the event.
Bruno said she is very choosy about which artists she invites to the art show.
“It’s not crap,” she said. “It’s not, you know, anybody with a glue gun that is putting price tags on (stuff)…I basically go by, you know, is it something I want to buy?”
The Shop Small Crawl has had many forms throughout the years. The idea began when Bruno joined forces with the late Jim Loso to sell their art together in 2011. The local artists gathered for Loso’s “21 E. Ash Christmas Show.” It was a great way to celebrate art and connect with the town. Bruno remembered Loso’s gorgeous porcelain pieces fondly. However, Bruno felt cramped in the single space. The following year, she and Loso invited the public to visit each artist’s space on the same day. This was the 2012 “Holiday Art Crawl.”
Bruno’s event has changed considerably since. She fixed the date to take place on Small Business Saturday. Every year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a national holiday which promotes gift shopping from small entrepreneurs all over the country in lieu of Black Friday’s big-box stores or Cyber Monday’s internet purchases. Bruno has expanded her event to include many small businesses, including shops that don’t primarily focus on art. Bars, coffee shops and boutiques are all celebrated on this day.
In 2017, Bruno arranged for a shuttle to transport shoppers from stop to stop during her Shop Small Crawl. Participants may choose to commute to each stop themselves, or make use of the free shuttle.
“The point is trying to get people to leave their car,” Bruno said, “motivate people to go someplace they’ve never been.”
With the shuttle, people only have to worry about parking once. Then they can hop on the bus without having to worry about winter driving.
Although there are just 13 official stops at Joetown’s crawl, shoppers are encouraged to visit other places as well.
“Everyone needs to eat,” Bruno said. “There’s Bello (Cucina) and there’s Bo Did(dley)’s and there’s Krewe…Every place is gonna be open. And there’s Jolie Ollie’s…even places that aren’t stops; if they’re open, they’re part of it.”
More information can be found at https://www.mcbrunopress.com/shop-small-crawl.