A server delivers food to a table inside MeeMa’s restaurant in Bixby Knolls Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The holidays are here, and so is the official day to celebrate local businesses: Small Business Saturday.

On Nov. 27, shoppers are encouraged to skip the trip to chain stores and shop with their local small businesses instead. To help sweeten the deal, business improvement districts across the city have come up with activities that give shoppers an opportunity to learn more about the locally owned businesses in their area and even win gift cards for shopping there.

The Belmont Shore Business Association is organizing a scavenger hunt in which the first 25 patrons to complete the quest will receive a gift card for a participating local business. To complete the hunt, shoppers have to find an elf hidden inside the businesses, receive a stamp and complete a line of stamps on a bingo card.

“Small business is really at the heart of what we have to offer here on Second Street,” the association’s executive director, Jessie Artigue, said. “We wanted to create something to give our community a chance to come out and support.”

The Downtown Long Beach Business Alliance will be hosting a similar event, where up to two shoppers can win a $500 gift card from a business of their choice if they make purchases and collect stamps at eight local businesses.

Shella Garcia’s children’s clothing store Sweet Threads on Second Street will participate in the Belmont Shore scavenger hunt. She’s also planning to host another local brand of children’s clothing as a special one-day pop up on Nov. 27.

“I love supporting other businesses,” Garcia said. Small Business Saturday, she said, is a welcome opportunity to make up for lost time. “A lot of the major events we usually do, we didn’t do in 2020.”

Making it through the last year was far from a given for many small businesses. In California, 19,200 businesses permanently closed during the first six months of the pandemic alone, according to a Yelp report.

For Miguel Perez, it will be the second Small Business Saturday since he opened his Bixby Knolls restaurant, MeeMa’s, just before the pandemic started. Last year, indoor dining was still prohibited.

“It was a really tough time for restaurants,” Perez said. But the ongoing support from patrons throughout the crisis made them feel valued, he added. “The community really, really rallied around us.”

Now, Perez can use all the support the community has to offer. MeeMa’s just reopened after losing one of its prep cooks, whom Perez had known for over a decade, to COVID. “It’s been really tough on us,” he said.

Understanding the human stories behind local small businesses is an important part of Small Business Saturday, said Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association.

“Behind every little storefront, there are people,” Cohn said. “You’re supporting your neighbors.”