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Robert Medawar, of Medawar Fine Jewelers in Rolling Hills Estates on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Small businesses have been hit particularly hard during the coronavirus pandemic — making this week’s Small Business Saturday more important than ever, shop owners and business advocates say.

The event, which takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving — on Nov. 28 this year — began a decade ago, with American Express urging people to “shop small.” That message has continued annually, with marketing campaign and promotions encouraging shoppers to spend their money at small businesses.

But this year, small businesses — which face greater obstacles than larger chains under ideal circumstances — have faced greater financial hardships than usual because of the pandemic.

Eileen Hupp, president and CEO of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said the importance of supporting small businesses cannot be overstated.

“Small businesses directly impact the vitality of our neighborhoods and communities by fostering a strong local economy, creating jobs, and providing an atmosphere of growth, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Hupp said in an email. “They bring character and a sense of local connection to our communities.”

Robert Medawar, owner of Medawar Fine Jewelers in Rolling Hills Estates, is celebrating his company’s 40th anniversary during the pandemic. He agreed that in the current atmosphere, it is important for the community to support local businesses.

“Small businesses have invested heavily to provide a safe environment for customers to shop,” Medawar said in an email, “and we encourage our residents to get out in the fresh air and visit local retailers, especially during the holiday season.

Local businesses, Medawar added, are known for supporting their communities, particularly schools and nonprofits — and now those communities need to help them out.

“Now is the time for the community to return that support,” he said, “by coming out and shopping local.”

Brothers Brian and Colin Cooley, who own Wicked+ General Store and the women’s boutique Beach & Beverly in Hermosa Beach, said supporting small businesses this year also means supporting the character of their communities.

“Right now, the future of our local culture and character is at stake as the global pandemic threatens to close a number of our independent businesses,” Brian Cooley said in an email, “including our retails shops, restaurants, and cafes and our service businesses.”

Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Stroman, meanwhile, stressed the importance small businesses have on the economy.

“Small and medium-sized businesses are truly the backbone of our economy,” Stroman said in an email. “They employ locals, they purchase from local vendors, and they support the local restaurants and other businesses in the area. Many are struggling to keep their doors open this year because of COVID-19.

Spend local,” she added, “and put a smile on a local business owner’s face.”

Marsha Hansen, CEO and president of the El Segundo Chamber of Commerce, said her organization launched “El Segundo Gives Thanks” this month to encourage shopping locally throughout the holidays.

“There has never been a time more important than now,” Hansen said in an email, “to support our small businesses throughout the South Bay.”

Kelly Burner, who founded Kelly’s Beach Hut in El Segundo in 2017, said in an email that Small Business Saturday is a wonderful way to support local shops during the holidays — and especially during the pandemic.

“It is very important to support small business as the holidays are usually our busiest time of year,” Burner said, “and with the closure due to COVID in the springtime, that hurt many of us.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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