The U.S. Small Business Administration states, “Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, is Small Business Saturday – a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities. This year, we know that small businesses need our support now more than ever as they navigate, retool and pivot from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Please join SBA and organizations across the country in supporting your local small businesses by shopping at a small business.
“Founded by American Express in 2010 and officially cosponsored by SBA since 2011, Small Business Saturday has become an important part of small businesses’ busiest shopping season.”
In honor of Small Business Saturday, Niagara Frontier Publications presents its annual spotlight on local merchants.
Inspirations on Canvas
449 Center St., Lewiston
By Joshua Maloni
What can’t technology do?
Technology can warm our car seats from afar, send dinner to the door, or bring the latest popcorn flick right into our living rooms.
With a touch of a button, we can order vacuum cleaners, crockpots and blenders; pay bills that once had to be mailed; and connect with cross-country classmates for an online chat.
It’s … super-impersonal … cold … and kinda boring, if you think about it.
It’s the complete opposite of what you’ll find at Lewiston’s Inspirations on Canvas.
In fact, owner/artist Kathy Pignatora said, “I truly believe that I paint something for someone.”
Not palettes and boxes of the same old, generic thing everyone else has lying around the house.
“This is actually very spiritual for me, because I’ll get an image and I’ll paint it and not really know why,” Pignatora said. “And then, sometimes it’s the next day. Sometimes it’s six months from now. Maybe it’s a year from now. But when that person comes in, and that painting belongs to them, they know it immediately.”
It’s that kind of personal touch – that level of uniqueness – that Pignatora prides herself on, and how she operates her almost 7-year-old store.
She said her original art “should be unique and for that person, or what's the point? I always say to them, ‘It's nothing you have to have. You have to want it. And imagine it not being here tomorrow when you come in. It's not here. How does that make you feel?’
“One time, there was a retired cop, and he was from here. He was a transplant down in Florida, and he was back up here for the summer. … It was probably my first summer or second summer. And it was this gentleman; he was just standing there; and he was looking at this big beach scene that I had done. And I'm like, ‘Welcome,’ and ‘Look and enjoy it’ – like, no pressure here. He was just looking and looking, so finally I said to him, ‘Are you OK? Is there anything I can help you with?’ And he goes, ‘This piece – it looks like the beach I live on down in Florida.’ And I said, ‘Well, for me, this is the beach it means. This is what it was for me.’ And he goes, ‘I really like it.’
“He goes, ‘Now, you have to understand, I'm a retired cop. I don't care about art’ (laughs). He was like a snowbird; he was here for the summer and then going back. I said, ‘Well, how would you feel if it wasn't here tomorrow?’ He goes, ‘I’d get very sad about that.’ He goes, ‘I actually get a little misty about that.’ He was sort of a salty old cop, and he literally got misty. He goes, ‘I don't feel this way about art.’
“He bought it. And he wanted it for here, because he had his place here, and it reminded him of the beach that he lives at down in Florida. And then he bought one of my little Niagara Falls paintings to bring, so he had each home at either place.”
Pignatora said, “You can't live off of art; you can't eat it. It's not something you have to have. It's really something you just desire, and it makes you feel a certain way – hopefully good.”
Owner/artist Kathy Pignatora is shown hand-painting a wine bottle. A new product in her store, the glass container comes with a light and is a distinctive addition to any room.
At Inspirations on Canvas, Pignatora said the answer is always “Yes.” Yes, she can put her art on a pillow, or a blanket, or a jacket.
“I'm individualizing what people can get,” she said. “Like, anyone could go to Target and you get what they get. But here, I'm offering, ‘What is it you're looking for?’ And trying to change that market a little bit, to make your shopping experience here just more to fit your needs, or your loved ones’ needs, or something more individual like that.”
Throughout the Thanksgiving weekend, Pignatora will offer a 10% discount on any non-commissioned product. Customers also can enjoy hot chocolate and enter to win prizes.
“As always, I offer an array of prices,” she said. “Even in my art, to the gift items. I mean, I have things from $5 on up. So, I do try – and I always have tried – to give lots of options for people, in gift items, but also in price point.”
She added, “What I'm hearing people say is they don't want to just give anything; they want to give thoughtful things. When you're giving handmade items, or just items that have sort of symbolism to it, that's really what people, I think, are looking for. So, I've really tried to offer quite a variety of things like that.”
Pignatora acknowledged, “We all use the internet. We all are on Amazon, all that stuff. I get it. If you can just carve out some of your budget. It's been a tough year for small business, particularly from what I know and just my neighbors here – we've had challenges, weather-related. Also smoke. Lots of rain this summer. We've definitely had some weather challenges. We felt it. And so, we're really, really hoping you guys will remember us.
“I think we are, especially with the coming to the Village of Lewiston, what is so special about it is the charm. And I think that we are part of the charm.
“And when I say it's fun to shop small, it is fun. … You can come by 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock in the morning, grab a cup of coffee at one of our great coffee places here. … And just have fun with family or friends, and really put in some thoughtful shopping for your loved ones this year.”
One-of-a-kind items inside Inspirations on Canvas.
More About Small Business Saturday
In the 2023 American Express Shop Small Impact Study:
•The majority of small business owners (88%) said small businesses need the support of customers in their community given the current economic environment.
•More than half (55%) of small business owners anticipate Small Business Saturday will make a significant contribution to their overall holiday sales this year.
•Consumers are ready to rally behind their local neighborhood businesses and be a part of the “Shop Small” movement. In fact, 78% of those surveyed agree small businesses are essential to their community.
So, #shopsmall this year.
To learn more, visit https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/benefits/shop-small/.