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Copley small businesses offer retreat from busy Montrose shopping district

By Bruce F. Griffin correspondent

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In this file photo, Judy Gager, the owner of the River City Gift Shoppe holds stuffed snowmen that are sold in one of the shop's two buildings. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

COPLEY: Just north of Copley Circle, the small specialty shops are places to retreat from the busy Montrose shopping district, full of big box stores, for a quiet cup of coffee, a scratch-made sandwich or ice cream and to quietly browse for unusual gifts not found in department stores.

"We will be open Black Friday for lunch for people looking to get away from the crowds," said Eric Friese, manager of Shisler's Cheese House.

With its wooden floor and aromas of cheese, meats and fresh ground coffees, the deli section has tables where customers can relax over coffee or enjoy a fresh made sandwich.

The shop, located at 1275 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, is staffed by 12 full and part-time employees. Employees are "a little more full-time for the holidays,” Friese said. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and is closed Sunday.

To insure customers do have a tasty Thanksgiving, "we take the traditional approach, prepping for a gathering of good food," Friese said.

He sees closing Thanksgiving in keeping with the holiday tradition, one that could be lost to commercialism. When stores are open on Thanksgiving, "it seems that we're getting away from the holidays here," he said.

Next door at the River City Carriage Barn Shoppe, owner Judy Gager, is looking forward to Small Business Saturday.

She figures shoppers "will go [to] the big box stores" on Friday, but hopes on Saturday they might look to her 1265 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road shop, which offers items made by 70 different crafters as well as locally baked goods. Like Shisler's, her store will close Thanksgiving.

She is offering a special one-day promotion to lure those Saturday shoppers, a one-per-person giveaway with a $10 purchase.

American Express began promoting Small Business Saturday in 2010 as an "American shopping holiday" to counter Black Friday and Cyber Monday, "to encourage holiday shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses that are small and local," according to its"">"">Gager also is scheduling a "Christmas Open House" from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 30, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 1 and noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 2. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday."">Six part-time employees staff her two stores across from each other in Copley's north end. Gager said most of the store's revenue comes from fourth-quarter sales. With the country's struggling economy, "its been a tough couple of years," she said.