REDLANDS - Gay Kolodzik was all smiles as customer after customer left her store in downtown with bags of merchandise.

"It's been unreal today," said Kolodzik, owner of Frugal Frigate, a children's bookstore on the quiet corner of State Street and Sixth Street.

Kolodzik was one of many local businesses that participated in the American Express "Small Business Saturday" event, which encouraged shoppers to spend their money in small local businesses the day after one of the busiest shopping days of the year, "Black Friday."

As part of the promotion, they offered a $25 credit for cardholders who registered their cards and spent at least $25 at participating small businesses.

Julie Clarke , 50, of Riverside, reads a book at The Frugal Frigate in Redlands.
Julie Clarke , 50, of Riverside, reads a book at The Frugal Frigate in Redlands. (LaFonzo Carter/Staff Photographer)

Kolodzik signed up for the event after receiving a letter in the mail from American Express.

"I said we need to be part of this. We need to be part of anything that bonds and brings together small business," she said.

Some of the downtown Redlands shoppers were members of the Occupy movement who rallied against shopping on "Black Friday," or as they called it "BlackOUT Friday."

Instead, members spent the day shopping downtown store and visiting with owners.

Part of the movement's mission for the day was to find ways to help the local business owners, said Kent Marten, Occupy member and Redlands resident.

"We want to make Redlands a strong local community and improve the economy locally," Marten said. "Especially considering the economy nationally at this time and in the Inland Empire. The people unemployed and all the things we talk about in the news now-a-days. This is something that we can start to do to help this community grow."

A group of about 10 members headed into the Redlands Galleria first and then made their way to other stores in downtown.

The Galleria saw many non-Occupy shoppers Friday and Saturday, which is not unusual said "Diamond Jim" Leitao, one of the principal owners.

"The advantage that we have is we have 140 dealers we rent space for and the diversity of merchandise is unbelievable," he said. "You can go to Neiman Marcus where the millionaires shop and won't find some of the items of quality that are here."

Christopher Brady, owner of 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga, hopes Small Business Saturday will become as popular as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The comic book store owner participated in the event for the first time and even offered participating customers an additional $5 gift card.

"I mean Black Friday is always good. People stay up all night long so they don't really want to go out and shop at small stores," Brady said. "Something like this is pretty nice. It's just getting people used to it that is going to be the big thing. Everybody's used to Black Friday now everyone needs to get programed into Small Saturday."

Sales were up Friday, which was "Blackest of them all Friday."

To continue the upswing, customers saw 20 percent discounts on most major items, which will continue through today, Brady said.

"The emails just went out and stuff like that this morning," Brady said. "Hopefully we see an increase in business. We're expecting to have a decent day."

Reach Sandra via email, call her at 909-483-8555, or find her on Twitter @UplandNow .