Today is Black Friday — historically the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season. But as far as the deals go, it’s been here for weeks. Retailers no longer wait for the day after Thanksgiving to start sales, with many taking the liberty to brand all sorts of promotions during the year as Black Friday sales.

But sandwiched between Black Friday and Giving Tuesday is Small Business Saturday — a day in which consumers are encouraged to do their holiday shopping and dining at local and neighborhood retail and restaurant outlets that help our community thrive.

Small businesses help ensure local economies stay strong and vibrant, and “shopping small” is a great way to show your support. According to statistics from the U.S. Small Business Association, there are 2.6 million small businesses (that’s 99.8% of all businesses) in Texas. They employ about 4.7 million people (that’s 45.6% of working Texans) and deliver essential goods and services to communities across the state all the time.

The Small Business Administration says there are 28 million small businesses operating in the United States. And since 1995, those small businesses have added 8 million jobs — roughly 66% of all new jobs in the U.S.

But more importantly, “shopping small” boosts our local economy and helps support our local businesses who contribute so much to the fabric of our community.

We are amply blessed in Angelina County with a proliferation of specialty boutiques and mom-and-pop shops that offer unique gift options that can’t be matched at the big-box retailers.

Small Business Saturday has become an event that many local store owners look forward to, and they are working together to bring more shoppers to locally owned businesses. Several have said they will offer food and drinks, as well as discounts on their wares.

Several also are participating in the Fitt Life Nerf Ninja event, which allows shoppers to drop off their kids for a few hours while they shop or dine downtown.

“This is our second year doing this,” said Sandi Adams, the owner of Fitt Life. “The purpose is to promote small businesses in the community.”

Fitt Life will accept around 20-30 children for $20 for two sessions and give parents a passport for all the businesses participating. The passport offers them deals and at the end can be used by participants to be entered for door prizes. Those interested need to contact Fitt Life before dropping their kids off, Adams said.

The Small Business Association says shoppers can do their part in the following ways:

■ Commit to making at least one purchase from a locally owned small business retailer. Get to know the owner, and make your gift more meaningful by sharing their story as part of what you give your loved ones.

■ After a day of shopping, continue to support small businesses by dining small at your favorite small business restaurant.

■ Enjoy the experience. Travel outside your comfort zone, and away from your computer screen, to discover an out-of-the-ordinary shopping district with some trendy local stores.

■ Take part in Small Business Saturday on social media, using the hashtag #SmallBizSat, #ShopSmall and #DineSmall to amplify your support. If you find a great small business retailer with unique products, tweet your find or post it on Facebook so others can enjoy it too.

■ When you open your gifts, start a conversation about which one came from the most distinctive and creative sellers. This can make for great debate over eggnog or your holiday drink of choice.

Remember that “shopping small” refers to where — not how much — you buy. Show and share your love for this community by looking for all your gifts in our local small businesses.