ITHACA, N.Y. – The Friday after Thanksgiving marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance is working to keep spending local. If Black Friday crowds sound like a nightmare, “Plaid Friday” in downtown Ithaca promises a tamer alternative. If Cyber Monday sounds a bit too cold and impersonal, perhaps “Cider Monday” sounds like a more appealing option.

The three-day Shift Your Shopping event, including Plaid Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cider Monday, will feature discounts and special gifts at shops throughout the Commons. More than a dozen shops are participating; a full list is available on the event page.

To encourage shoppers to head downtown, street parking is free from Thanksgiving until Sunday evening. To discourage shoppers from using plastic or paper bags, stores will be giving out free canvas “Shop Small” totes on Saturday.

Retailers on the Commons say the holiday shopping season can make the difference between staying open another year or closing up shop. Stores count on above-average sales before the lean winter months.

Sam Parlett, a buyer at the Benjamin Peters men’s clothing store, said he sees double or triple typical customer traffic on the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Benjamin Peters is offering discounts throughout the weekend to tempt gift buyers to splurge on special items.

Kelly Serbonich, the owner of Jillian’s Drawers natural parenting store, said she finds it “really heartwarming to see people making an effort to support their community” by shopping at small downtown businesses. In addition to special discounts, the store will offer free bounce house playtime this weekend to keep kids occupied while parents shop.

At Home Green Home, owner Megan Vidler said her favorite part of the holiday season is how social it is for retailers on the Commons. “It’s fun to be out here, seeing everyone from the community,” she said, adding that while the holiday season is busy downtown, the crowding doesn’t compare to big box stores. “It’s busy, but still really pleasant,” she said.

If shopping doesn’t lure you to the Commons this weekend, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance hopes sweets will. They’ll be giving out free cider and Little Tree Donuts at the Downtown Visitors Center from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday, Nov. 26.

Devon Magliozzi

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at or 607-391-0328.