The dressing rooms at Gary Michael’s Clothiers were in high demand Saturday morning.

Like many businesses across Hastings, Gary Michael’s saw a huge influx of customers taking advantage of sales and supporting local businesses as part of Small Business Saturday.

“Today is like the best day of our entire year,” Gary Michael’s co-owner Trish Ludemann said as she wrapped a box. “It has been. Even last year during the COVID year we had the best Small Business Saturday that we have ever had.”

She said Small Business Saturday cultivated a wonderful atmosphere.

Friends and family members gathered in small groups on sidewalks outside of downtown businesses.

“You see all the people shopping,” Ludemann said. “Everybody’s happy. Everybody’s excited. It’s just a great thing for us as business owners to witness and be a part of.”

The Downtown Center Association’s 200 “Keep it local” blue swag bags full of coupons went quickly.

“We’re having an exceptional Shop Small Saturday,” Tammy Orthmann, Downtown Center Association director, said Saturday afternoon. “We had a really good crowd this morning when we gave away our swag bags. We really talked them up and were very proud of the contents in them.”

Sue Brown, owner of Calico Cottage, said foot traffic was up about 50% over a typical Saturday.

“Foot traffic is always up because of the bags that the Downtown Center Association hands out,” she said. “I think almost all of the stores in downtown Hastings are offering a discount.”

Small Business Saturday is important to Calico Cottage as it is to all the local businesses, Brown said.

“We get foot traffic here in the store,” she said. “They see what our product is. Often times people walk in and go, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were here.’ At least it gets them in to see what we have, and hopefully they will come back and shop another time of the year.”

Sales associates at businesses throughout Hastings were busy helping customers.

Sam Kroepel, owner/manager of Brown’s Shoe Fit, said Small Business Saturday is “far different” from a typical Saturday.

“Saturday always does tend to be one of our busier days of the week, but when you throw the deals on people always make it a bit busier,” he said.

Business was brisk at Orthmann’s own business, Bath, Bliss Gifts.

What she was able to see of foot traffic in downtown was encouraging.

“It means everything, especially in these kinds of times when you don’t know what the mandates will be or if crowds are going to feel comfortable coming out,” she said. “It means everything to know that people still want to support the downtown and do their Christmas shopping here and shop for themselves, too. It’s just a cornerstone of what we do here. We try to get people down and make sure it’s worth their time and that they have a great time.”