Story by Nick Austin
Eyewitness News Meteorologist

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Small business owners say shopping local offers many benefits you won't find at those big box stores and it's about more than money.

Black Friday is the day shoppers traditionally flock to malls and outlet stores to find the best deals. But a new initiative called "Small Business Saturday" aims to steer people toward local shops.

Even though "Small Business Saturday" is still one day away, plenty of people came out Friday morning, despite the much colder weather, to shop at local stores along Frazier Avenue.

As local store owners along the North Shore got ready for business this Black Friday, they hoped shoppers would bypass the mall mobs to find a more personal experience.

"We provide excellent customer service. We have the same people on the front lines all day long and they know our customers by face and by name," says business owner Tina Harrison.

Gift shop owner Tina Harrison says that's what sets local, small businesses apart from nationally known names, better service and a wider variety of products.

"We can buy deeper product. We can buy more variety of product than the big box retailers. It just keeps us unique and different," says Harrison.

Scott Smith manages a donut shop across the street and agrees it's the special touches, which make local businesses stand out.

"You get fresh made donuts. You can see them being made. You come in, hang out by the fireplace and you just have a family atmosphere," says Manager Scott Smith.

But these establishments do more than just offer one of a kind merchandise, they support the local economy and keep downtown and the North Shore thriving.

"Most of the dollars that you spend in a small business, like mine, stay in the community. I think the statistic is 70 cents of every dollar stays in the community," says Harrison.

Small businesses also account for half of all private sector jobs and over the past decade have generated up to 80 percent of the new jobs in the area.

But it's not just the small business owners who realize the importance of their roles in the community. Many shoppers themselves are aware of the economic impact these stores represent.

"When the downtown area is kept going and vibrant and alive, it's something that kind of feeds the roots and then the city grows strong from it," says Joan McCarthy.

Partly in support of the effort to encourage people to shop local.

Carta is offering free on-street parking on the North Shore throughout the entire weekend.

The pay boxes all display the free parking message.

You will have to pay to park in their garages or lots.