Angela Sabir was shopping for her sister, whose birthday is in December, when she spotted a simple bracelet of colorful cubes.
“I think she might like it,” the Dorchester resident mused at a jewelry table inside On Centre, a longtime Jamaica Plain destination for funky, irreverent gifts. “I really wanted it for myself but . . . I need a gift.”
Sabir was among hundreds filling Centre Street storefronts and millions more nationally participating in Small Business Saturday.
They took their credit cards — some worn from overuse in the big-box madness of Black Friday — to locally owned shops in an effort to spread the wealth of the nation’s holiday spending.
“I came, not specifically for anything, but just to support the businesses,” Sabir said. “I like the kind of off-the-beaten-track places where everybody doesn’t necessarily go.”
Small Business Saturday started in 2010, promoted by American Express, and over the past decade has helped build a culture of shopping small, according to Jon B. Hurst, president of the 4,000-member Retailers Association of Massachusetts.
“It’s reminded our consumers, not only that one day but throughout the holiday season and throughout the year, to shop like jobs depend on it,” Hurst said.
This year, Hurst expects a 3 percent increase over last year’s Small Business Saturday sales, which marked a 4 percent increase over 2017.
Small businesses also will get a boost this holiday season from Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, who on Saturday announced “20 Districts in 20 Days,” a campaign to visit the city’s Main Streets districts and highlight locally owned establishments.
On Centre opened a half-hour early Saturday and was offering free Jamaica Plain canvas tote bags to anyone who spent more than $100. Owner Philip Celeste said some customers wait to do their shopping on Small Business Saturday.
It’s possible to find almost anything online, Celeste said, but people still like to see an item in person before they buy.
“When little kids come in and they see a snowman, their eyes light up,” he said. “It’s a whole different environment. . . . I think that’s how we can combat Amazon.”
George and Heather Woods, both 32, came into On Centre with their 5-month-old daughter, Darby, who has already developed a shopping technique.
“We just kind of like hold her up to the rack, and she goes, that one,” George Woods said, demonstrating how the infant points at whatever catches her eye.
“The thing that’s really cool about places like this is you’re not going to find this . . . in Walmart,” he said. “They clearly care about what they curate and what they put in here.”
A few doors down at Boomerangs, a thrift store benefiting AIDS Action Committee, Dorchester resident Evans P. Acloque, 58, was trying on a checked blue-gray blazer priced at $10.
“I’m looking for a file cabinet,” he explained. “And a friend of mine . . . he’s been here many a time; he’s found many good deals.”
Acloque said he likes to support small businesses and avoid the traffic at shopping malls. His friend, DeVille Val, 56, of Milton, who accompanied him Saturday, is a practiced thrift shopper.
“If you’re on a budget, this is one of the many places you can definitely try to get a good deal,” said Val, who wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just “whatever catches my eye.”
Boomerangs was offering 30 percent off for members of its loyalty club Saturday, and its back room held an array of holiday decorations — “brand-new stuff that got donated by department stores,” said manager Jill Martin.
Marianne Collard, 26, bought holiday cards, gift bags, and an evergreen wreath priced at $6.
“We’re a little sparse on Christmas decorations because it’s my first time living in a more permanent apartment,” explained Collard, who recently moved to Jamaica Plain with her fiancé. “We have our first tree . . . but it has almost no ornaments on it.”
Across Centre Street at a women’s boutique called Susanna, Jane Hans, 80, who lives in the neighborhood, said when the store opened in September, “I was delighted, because I’d shopped in their Cambridge store, and it’s a long way from here.” Susanna has had a Porter Square location since 1982.
What was Hans seeking Saturday? “I need some more interesting socks,” she said, pointing to her ankles to show a patterned pair she’d bought at Susanna.
On Small Business Saturday, Susanna offered a 10 percent discount and free gift-wrapping. And as store manager Felice Rutstein-Lee greeted customers, addressing some by name and laughing over shared jokes, it was clear the shop offered something more: a sense of community.
“People get attached to small businesses — I do too,” Rutstein-Lee said. “People become friends with the owners and the staff, which is nice. You’re enmeshed in the community.”