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Durham gets Sustain-a-Bull

The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium
The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium

Black Friday may be over, but the sales continue in Durham.

The third Shop Independent Durham Week, which runs Nov. 26 through Dec. 4, features specials and discounts by local stores and restaurants. The event is organized by Sustain-a-Bull, Durham’s local independent business alliance, and aims to promote the city’s small businesses. With more than 35 participating businesses, this year’s week-long sale is the largest yet.

“We as small businesses have things to offer that big chain stores don’t and even more so than that, we help create the culture of Durham,” said Tom Campbell, founder of Sustain-a-Bull and co-owner of the Regulator Bookshop on Ninth Street. “[Small businesses] are unique and add something to the shopping climate.”

The city has changed over the years, developing an identity based on its independent merchants, Campbell said. Duke students, however, have not seemed to come out as much as permanent residents, he added.

“The one population we haven’t seen shopping much are college students, but we hope to change that,” Campbell said.

Shop Independent Durham Week aims to keep money within Durham. For every $100 spent with an independent business, $45 remains in the city—compared to $13 when shopping at a national chain and essentially zero dollars when shopping online, according to Sustain-a-Bull’s website.

“This was a movement that has nothing to do with city government,” said John White, director of public policy at the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. “This was an initiative taken by independent small businesses themselves to keep money consumers spend in Durham, in Durham.”

After Campbell founded Sustain-a-Bull last year, he enlisted the participation of fellow independent business owners in Durham.

“I have been here for years and years and have come to know this place,” Campbell said. “I know a lot of people, and so I pulled out my contacts and called them up and it just spread.”

Campbell said Durham’s first sale in November 2010 was small with few participating businesses. Over the past year, the movement attracted more and more businesses.

“They have to be independent, in Durham and locally owned,” Campbell noted. “Other than that, however, we want as many additions as we can get.”

Sustain-a-Bull requires annual membership dues of $75 but the group hopes to garner sponsorship from larger businesses in the area, Campbell said. The grassroots initiative has more than 75 member organizations, including Only Burger, Elmo’s Diner, Locopops and Local Yogurt.

“These local merchants and restaurateurs are putting [the sale] on for the holiday season and have done so quite successfully on their own,” White said. “Without city help, they have grown considerably since their modest start last year.”

The group advertised the event by putting up posters, talking to customers and utilizing social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The movement has seen the largest response from people who have lived in Durham for an extended period of time and feel loyalty to their fellow neighbors, he said. Wendy Woods, co-owner of participating restaurant Nosh, grew up in Durham and returned to the city in 1999 to start her restaurant. She said that over the past 12 years, the city has developed a culture of small independently owned businesses that draws support from the city and its residents.

“We do small things like offer dessert samples with our entrees for dinner.... Because a lot of people did not know we had a baker and offer fresh-baked goods... this movement provides organized publicity,” Woods said. “This year, partially due to the help of Shop Independent Durham, we saw our number of Wednesday night pre-packaged Thanksgiving dinners double. We, along with some other participating vendors, stayed open on Thanksgiving—and Durham was very appreciative.”

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