PITTSFIELD — Santa Claus took a stroll through the hardware store.

No, that’s not a line from a Christmas song. He really did take a walk through Carr Hardware Saturday on North Street, part of the city’s Small Business Saturday drive to bring shoppers downtown to do their holiday shopping in local stores.

“Hi Santa,” said Carr Hardware President Bart Raser. “We’re thrilled you’re here! Thanks for coming in!”

Santa stopped and chatted, then moved through the store greeting shoppers along the way. His elf hung an ornament on the store’s tree.

The Small Business Saturday campaign promoted by Downtown Pittsfield Inc. is part of a national effort to highlight small, locally owned businesses each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But this year was a special challenge because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Stores and restaurants offered an array of curbside pick-up and delivery options, and Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. has created a Downtown Pittsfield Holiday Gift Guide at downtownpittsfield.com which features gift ideas and links to online shopping to help local residents support local businesses from home.

“I think many people are a little afraid,” Raser said, noting that in-store traffic seems a bit slower while online and curbside have “been pretty busy.”

In-store purchases Saturday were heavy on holiday decorations, Christmas trees and lots of Christmas lights.

Raser said that has come a little earlier than usual this year.

“I guess people want to be festive earlier because of the times we’re in,” he said.

Down the street at Township Four, an independent gift and floral shop, co-owner Jed Thompson, who owns the shop with partner Nathan Hanford, said he was seeing steady foot traffic since opening time.

“We are very grateful for the number of people supporting our local small businesses,” he said. Like Raser, he also is seeing slower in-store sales, but an increase in the online sales.

“But there are definitely people out holiday shopping,” he added. “We’re selling a lot of wreaths and gift cards.”

For Steven Valenti, owner of Steven Valenti’s Clothing for Men shop on North Street, sales are a bit slower than last year, but still decent.

“We’ve been seeing some traffic. Which is good,” Valenti said, noting that shoppers seem to be snapping up sweaters and sport shirts as gifts.

He was hopeful that Small Business Saturday will resonate with shoppers because of the many benefits it provides for the local economy and the local community.

“Small businesses in the county really hold their communities together,” he said. “We depend on small business for a lot of different things, like volunteerism and charity efforts for local causes like church bazars and little league teams.”

And after 37 years in business, Valenti said he’s never seen anything like the economic drain the pandemic has become to the economy. But he is determined to get his store through the pandemic, and is sure to adhere to social distancing, masks, and frequent sanitizing of the store’s surfaces.

Over at Circa, the used furniture boutique, there was plenty of foot traffic, and frequent purchases.

According to Becky Barnini, owner, sales are a little off from last year, but “Black Friday was really good for us.”

Interestingly, she sold more furniture on Friday, and on Saturday shoppers were making “more gifty” purchases.

Barnini noted that she has seen a lot of new residents of Berkshire County coming in to finish furnishing or decorating their new homes.

“We’re seeing lots of folks we haven’t seen before, so we’re pretty busy,” she said.

}Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.