Jeannie Carl of Jim Thorpe is hoping to find some unique finds this weekend while enjoying a day in downtown Jim Thorpe.

"We always shop 'Mom and Pop' (shops)," she said recently, noting that her goal is to find the perfect Christmas gifts without traveling to big name department stores in the Lehigh Valley. "The shops in Jim Thorpe have gifts you can't find anywhere else ... not something manufactured in mass quantities. I believe in supporting the 'little guy.'"

Carl added that another reason she likes small town stores is because of the owners.

"The shop owners greet you like a friend. They remember customers' names and they seem genuinely happy to see you," she said.

Carl is one of millions of shoppers across the nation who will patronize small, family-owned stores this Saturday during the fourth annual Small Business Saturday. The theme of the event is "Shop Small."

Small Business Saturday is a national promotion sponsored by American Express as a way to support small, local businesses during the busy holiday season.

In the Carbon and Schuylkill county areas, that means many hardware stores, clothing boutiques, antique shops, pet groomers and more will open their doors and offer deals on personalized items and services that cannot be found in larger retailers like Walmart and Target.

The new after-Thanksgiving shopping "holiday" began in 2010 as a way to offset its bigger counterparts Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which tailor more to big retail chains and online shopping.

At the time, American Express started a radio and television campaign urging shoppers to also consider shopping locally for their holiday needs.

Since then, the initiative has caught the attention of numerous legislators and small business groups, including the United States Small Business Administration and the Better Business Bureau; and has grown into a nationally-recognized shopping day that helps kick off the holiday season. It even has its own hashtags #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat.

In 2011, the U.S. Senate officially recognized Small Business Saturday in Senate Resolution 320; and millions of shoppers turned out and participated in the second annual event

By 2012, the event was bringing in an estimated $5.5 billion to local business revenue streams, according to American Express.

Linda Yulanavage, director of the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce, said a few businesses in Tamaqua are using American Express' marketing material to promote this year's event, even though there is no organized effort in the borough.

In addition, WMGH, the local radio station that serves the Carbon and Schuylkill area, will be doing a Small Business Saturday Biz Crawl and will broadcast live from downtown Tamaqua, Yulanavage noted.

"Small businesses really are the heart of our community," Yulanavage said. "They offer so much more personalized customer service, unique merchandise and services, competitive pricing and employment opportunities. These are the businesses that are supporting all of our local nonprofit organizations with their local efforts that benefit all ages and causes.

"Shopping local everyday benefits the entire community. It's important."

For more information on Small Business Saturday or for maps of businesses that will be offering deals this weekend, visit www.smallbusinesssaturday.com.