Small-business owners in Delaware County hope residents remember Saturday, Nov. 26, is more than just the date of college's football most-storied rivalry game.

Small-business owners in Delaware County hope residents remember Saturday, Nov. 26, is more than just the date of college's football most-storied rivalry game.

As in years past, Small Business Saturday is scheduled for the same day as Ohio State's gridiron matchup with Michigan.

The nationwide shopping event, which is promoted and sponsored by American Express, encourages consumers to support local brick-and-mortar businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Small Business Saturday serves as a counterpart to big-box-based Black Friday and online-centric Cyber Monday, which also take place in the days following Thanksgiving.

Kathleen Miller, who owns Button Up, a gallery in downtown Delaware featuring handmade arts and crafts, said even the Buckeye game can't stop Small Business Saturday from being a big deal.

"Our loyal customers are so good about trying to be here on Small Business Saturday," she said. "If they happen to be Ohio State fans ... sometimes they will come in on Friday and say, 'I'm here today because I can't be here for Small Business Saturday.' "

Miller, who plans to hand out reusable shopping bags to customers on the day of the event, said Small Business Saturday also serves as a getaway for folks who aren't interested in football. She said Button Up sees at least a 50 percent increase in sales on the day.

"You also see many people coming in who say, 'Thank goodness there's something to do while the rest of my family watches the game,' " she said.

Andrea Thompson, co-owner of downtown Powell gift store Cute as a Button, said shoppers sneak away from the game when they can to support small businesses.

"We still have people who want to come out at halftime and take a break from the game," she said.

Thompson said Small Business Saturday is "definitely a bigger day" than typical fall Saturdays.

Not all county business owners share in the optimism about the shopping event.

Dan Negley, owner of Breakaway Cycling in downtown Delaware, said his customer base often is more excited about college football than shopping small on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

"Small Business Saturday can be a very small business Saturday due to Ohio State-Michigan," he said.

Negley said he thinks the event probably drives higher sales in regions where large percentages of the populations aren't watching rivalry football games.

"I think it's a neat concept, and I think it's great that American Express wanted to give back to small businesses, but it just doesn't fit for all markets," he said.

Negley said many downtown Delaware business owners have been toying with promotions before or after the game, but noted it's tough to compete with big-box stores on Black Friday.

Susie Bibler, executive director of Main Street Delaware, said the timing of Small Business Saturday could be better for the downtown merchants her organization supports.

"It's unfortunate, because I think that people who live in central Ohio ... are definitely thinking 'game day' and then, in the back of their mind, it's 'shop small.' "

Tanya McCarthy, executive director of the Greater Powell Area Chamber of Commerce, said American Express donated special doormats, shopping bags and signs to city businesses this year. She said she hopes the extra promotion draws folks downtown before, during and after the big game.

"Fortunately or unfortunately, I think central Ohio revolves around Buckeye football," she said.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick