MILLCREEK — You don't have to tell Stephanie Howells the perks of shopping at a small business over a big-box store, with advantages that go far beyond price or selection.
"He knows how much I love him," Howells said, bending down to scratch the scruff on the back of Titus' head.
"And I hate him," Megan Kilpatrick shot back, smiling at both her dog and her customer.
The banter continued for several minutes, with Kilpatrick describing their playful relationship built around trading barbs.
Howells, she explained, is her "bullmastiff" lady.
This is how it so often goes at Ma and Paws Bakery, which Kilpatrick bought five years ago. She may not know all her customers by name, but she likely remembers them by the breed of dog they own.
On Small Business Saturday, celebrated the Saturday after Thanksgiving, customers steadily streamed into Kilpatrick's store, winding their way through the cramped aisles backed with holistic canine food, frozen raw meats, goat's milk, oils, vitamins, nutritional supplements and toys.
While few customers had heard of Small Business Saturday, which encourages shoppers to bypass big-box stores, malls and online merchants and instead patronize small businesses, they're fiercely loyal to Ma and Paws.
"(Kilpatrick) knows a lot about about dogs," said Drew Papadakis, who stopped in briefly to buy some freshly baked dog treats.
Howells, who said she has been patronizing the business for about 10 years, comes for the high-quality dog food and the people who work there.
"It's more homey," she said.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams on Friday launched the "Shift Your Spending" campaign urging people to shop locally.
According to a news release on the campaign, if every household in Utah shifted just 10 percent of their holiday spending toward independent businesses, an estimated $108 million would stay in Utah in the month of December alone.
The campaign is part of Small Business Saturday, which began in 2010 by American Express to spur recovery from the recession. Last year, an estimated 112 million consumers reported shopping on Small Business Saturday, a 13 percent jump from the year before.
"Small businesses across the nation are often run by the friends, family and neighbors that we know well, so supporting them is not only personal but critical to their success,” said Juanita Duggan, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Candace Daly, the Utah director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said consumers are catching on to the advantages of shopping at small businesses.Comment on this story
"Every year since it has started, Utahns have become better and better at supporting small businesses," Daly said. "I think people are getting clued in to what it means to shop locally. You can find some unique gifts at these small businesses that you are not necessarily going to find online or at the big stores."
Take Ma and Paws, for example, where there are fresh baked dog treats shaped like a fish, taco, parmesan bread twist or drumstick — not something you can find just anywhere.
Kilpatrick points proudly to her baker, Amanda Simpson.
"She pours every ounce of love inside her into these treats," she said. "And she goes home at night completely, completely drained."