Flint, MI—The sound of hooves clopping and bells jingling could be heard on the bricks of Saginaw Street Saturday evening, marking the start of Flint’s winter wonderland-themed Small Business Saturday.
To kick off the holiday season a group of organizations led by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Metro Community Development and the City of Flint hosted a small business holiday celebration on Nov. 26, 2022. The event offered free horse-drawn carriage rides, food trucks and access to many local vendors and businesses.
Kiaira May, executive director of the DDA, worked closely alongside Metro Community Development to streamline the event’s details.
“Every year Flint has done a TREEmendous [event] during the first week of December,” May said. But, she added, that event seemed to draw attendance away from Flint’s Small Business Saturday festivities the week prior.
So, this year, the event organizers decided to join forces to “spice things up a bit” she explained.
“Metro Community Fund was our biggest partner who helped with all of this, and they have a big small business focus,” May said. “They went around and asked the small businesses downtown if they wanted to participate.”
The evening was filled with activities designed to bring holiday cheer. A vendor tent was placed outside of the Capitol Theatre with food trucks parked nearby. Participating businesses inside the tent included Flint United Basketball; Paints, Chalices and Hues; Snacky Brown; Lewis Handcrafted, and more.
Cymone Bearyman, owner of Rare Genetics Apparel, was also one of the vendors in the tent. Her Flint-based clothing line features words that say, “Rare” or “Rare Mama” or “Rare Genetics” across the front of different colored hoodies, sweatshirts and tops. Bearyman said she saw an ad on Facebook to sign up for the event for free and was provided a warm spot and an easy setup inside the tent.
“We started this business because my son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder encephalocele, which is a sac-like protrusion of the skull,” said Bearyman. “The doctors didn’t think he would make it for one minute. Here we are two years later. We started this business to spread awareness of this diagnosis. I am very glad to be here just to get the word out to the people.”
To promote revenue for brick-and-mortar stores alongside local vendors, a shopper’s passport was available, as well.
The passport included a list of participating businesses, and guests were encouraged to take their passport into those locations and collect a stamp after making a purchase. Once a passport was filled, or had a minimum of three stamps, it could be submitted online or taken to Metro Community Development’s dropbox.
On Dec. 5 at 12 p.m. the DDA will be announcing 12 prizes for guests who returned their passports, including a $500 and $250 Visa gift card and several gift baskets. The announcement will take place on Facebook.
Santa also made a guest appearance during the event. He sat inside of downtown’s Capitol Theatre, where friends and families could take photos with Saint Nick himself.
Flint photographer Jessica Hatter, owner of We Booth Michigan Photo Booth, was on hand to provide immediate development of beautifully lit photos for anyone wanting a family Christmas portrait.
Porsche Jackson, a close friend of Hatter, helped pose families with Santa in support of the event. “I keep thinking, dang I should’ve brought my kids,” said Jackson. “This is a great event we have for our community, and I hope we can do it every year.”
Comma Bookstore, one of downtown Flint’s participating brick-and-mortar businesses, had its own special events inside to add to Saturday’s lineup.
Egypt Otis, owner of Comma Bookstore, was excited to keep her store open till 9 p.m., later than its regular hours. Inside, local roaster Rootless Coffee provided fresh coffee and espresso while DJ AFROBOTK filled the room with beats.
The downtown event culminated with the much-anticipated tree lighting on E. Second St., where Flint-based singer Feimstro, whose real name is Antony Feimster Jr., sang and performed live organ music as a crowd gathered around the tree.
After his performance, a countdown brought the tree to life, and hundreds of bulbs twinkled in the night as friends and families posed around the newly-lit tree for pictures.
“Tonight was awesome,” said Femstro. “I’ve never played the organ outside in this kind of cold. It really brought back the feeling of the Christmas season, and I really am thankful for that.”
This article has been updated to clarify an event to which DDA executive director Kiaira May referred. A prior version of this article implied May was discussing low attendance at Flint’s tree lighting event when she was speaking about Flint’s previously separate Small Business Saturday event.