Snowman Hunt kicks off ‘small business season’


Shopping small is no longer a once-a-year activity. Vision Long Island announced last Saturday that this year and next, shopping at small, local businesses will be encouraged not just during the holidays, but all year-round.

“Nearly 40 Long Island downtowns have Shop Local and Small Business Saturday events, promotions, and holiday activities, so now it is small business season,” LI Main Street Alliance founder Eric Alexander said. “With economic headwinds due to inflation and winter energy costs, it’s more important than ever to support your independent local businesses.”

The focus on shopping small has been a major help for local businesses looking to drive up commerce during the holidays. That’s why the Village of Rockville Centre opens up free parking throughout the community each year to encourage people to come out and shop.

“There’s no denying that small stores, gift shops and a variety of other businesses are essential for a healthy local economy that sustains the unique character and quality of life that exists here,” Mayor Francis Murray said. “We’re fortunate enough to have a thriving downtown, with a variety of shops to meet every holiday shopping list. Please support our neighbors and shop small this holiday season.”

To help encourage people to shop local, Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Umansky, who owns Polka Dot Pound Cake, on North Long Beach Road, created the Rockville Centre Snowman Hunt, a scavenger hunt for children that sends them to shops and other businesses in search of snowmen hidden inside.

For the seventh annual Snowman Hunt this year, 33 businesses have agreed to participate, and kids 12 and younger are encouraged to join the search.

“Every participating chamber member gets maps, a poster and a little snowman,” Umansky explained, “and children are encouraged to run around town to find them.”

Flyers at the participating businesses will be stamped with their location for each of the snowmen the kids find. Anyone who finds 10 of them they will be entered in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate, and those who find all 33 will have a shot at a $100 gift certificate.

To help kick off the holiday shopping season, Vision Long Island and the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce held a news conference outside Polka Dot Pound Cake to announce the extension of Small Business Saturday through the end of December.

Council President Frank Camarano said that while the shop-local push began on Nov. 1, the hope is that it can be extended to all year round. “Shop local, shop small, shop on Saturday,” he said. “You know why? They support you. The truth is, most of the support from communities, almost all of it comes from small businesses.”

Camarano also said that the council and vision Long Island are teaming up with GettinLocal, a tech company that has been tasked with creating and launching an Explore Long Island mobile app to provide consumers with information on local businesses.

Small Business Saturday began as a consumer holiday created by American Express in 2010. In the most recent holiday seasons, it has taken on new significance for businesses struggling to survive despite the shutdowns and economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Small Business Saturday reminds all of us how important that is, not only as business owners but to help our communities here in Rockville Centre and in Long Island,” Umansky said.

This year’s Small Business Saturday appeared to be a smashing success for many local shops, which reported large increases in foot traffic.

Kerry Punzi, the owner of the Giftologist, on Park Avenue, said the shop had about 20 percent more customers over the weekend than it had around the same time last year. She added that the shop had taken part in the Snowman Hunt since it began.

“We’ve always participated,” Punzi said. “Lisa (Umansky) always comes up with something innovative. The kids seem to really like it.”

“It has been amazing,” said Jeannine Palladino, owner of Jeannine’s Gifts, on Park Avenue. “We have such great, loyal customers supporting small businesses.”

Palladino said that she has been at her location downtown for almost 19 years, and has also taken part in the Snowman Hunts. “It’s a nice, fun community activity,” she said.

Children have until Dec. 23 to find all the snowmen at participating shops and businesses. To learn more, go to