Big box stores were swamped on Black Friday, but smaller stores have started "Shop Local Saturday" to get a bigger share of the shopping pie.

Big box stores were swamped on Black Friday, but smaller stores have started "Shop Local Saturday" to get a bigger share of the shopping pie.

Medford residents Stephen and Karen Steward didn't need any convincing that shopping at local stores is the best bet.

In their search for a flat-screen television, they found the service and pricing just right at Larson's Home Center in Medford.

"This is the first place we've come," said 61-year-old Stephen. "We've supplied our entire house with all appliances from Larson's."

His wife agreed that local stores often provide the best service and most knowledgeable staff, with prices often as good as the chain stores.

"If we can, we try to help the local merchants," she said. "We need to keep our small businesses in this country."

American Express is offering a $25 credit today to its customers on purchases of $25 or more at participating small business. To receive the credit, customers have to register through American Express's Facebook page.

Carolyn Shaw, manager of Larson's, said local customers who frequent her store are dedicated to supporting local business.

Larson's is a family-owned, second-generation business that Shaw thinks gives the company a better connection with the community.

"There is the myth that people have that small, locally owned companies can't compete with the big box stores," she said. "We belong to big buying groups that give us the edge on big box stores."

Larson's, which does take American Express, also offers better service and easier access to a live person in case customers need help with a purchase.

"If there is a problem, we have local people answer the phone," she said. "We don't have people in India answer the phone."

The parking lots at many national retail chains were packed Friday, and many local businesses wished they could get just a little bit of their business.

"It seems like people feel like they can get better deals at the big box stores," said Vern Niehous at Cycle Analysis in Jacksonville. "But they can't get the same level of service they can get here."

After someone buys a bike at a major retailer, they head to Cycle Analysis and other smaller merchants for repairs and tune-ups. A tune-up costs $45, he said.

If someone purchased a bike at the store, Niehous said, the tune-ups are free for as long as they own the bike. In addition, customers get a lifetime warranty on the frame.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.