On Small Business Saturday, Virginia Owner Offers Customer Service, Not Sales

Date: November 27, 2023

The Pandemic Almost Broke Her. How Tina Miller Survived to Celebrate Today's Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Satruday started as a campaign to help small businesses gain exposure and inspire consumers to shop within their own communities during the holiday season. Last year, Small Business Saturday helped generate nearly $18 billion in consumer activity for independent businesses around the country.

When you shop small your money stays in the community. For every $100 you spend at local owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes and payroll. Spend the same amount at a national retailer, and that number drops to $43.

Originally intended to boost the Main Street recovery following the Great Recession, small businesses again face significant economic headwinds. The pandemic brought closures, restrictions, new mandates and staffing headaches for mom-and-pop shops. The pandemic nearly broke Tina Miller. She nearly had to declare bankruptcy at all six of her outdoor adventure retail locations, Walkabout Outfitter.

Simply surviving was a considerable feat; opening a new store with enough employees to help the rush of expected customers on Small Business Saturday is cause for celebration.

“We hope people do the right thing and support their local businesses.” said Walkabout Outfitter owner Tina Miller. “We know our products and teach you how to use them. Not sure about that invitation to go spelunking? No problem. Stop by our Harrisonburg store where my knowledgeable staff will help you find the right gear to ensure an enjoyable experience rather than a scene from a National Lampoon’s Vacation movie! At Walkabout Outfitter, our mission statement is to “encourage happiness” in the outdoors. From neighborhood greenspaces to the summit of Mt. Everest, whatever you’re into we’re here to help!


Tina spent Black Friday with her employees at their new Williamsburg location.

We help conserve public lands and donate gift certificates and prizes to local auctions and fundraisers – no matter how small. We offer free classes and events, occupy storefronts, and get involved in community programs. It’s the best part of who we are! We’re involved in the Appalachian Train Conservancy, our local Main Street Programs, and more. Do you think Amazon cares one iota about your community, said Miller.

“Inflation and minimum wage increases are hurting our small business owners and making it even harder to turn to profit,” said Julia Hammond, NFIB State Director in Virginia. “Actions by out of touch lawmakers in Richmond will double Virginia’s minimum wage in less than 5 years. What they don’t understand is that jumping from $7.25 to $15 increases labor costs so much that small business owners are forced to either cut employee hours or increase the costs of goods and services, which makes keeping up with big box stores nearly impossible. Shop for deals on Black Friday, then on Saturday, check in on your neighborhood mom and pop shop where Small Business Saturday is more than a holiday shopping sale – it’s supporting small every day of the year.”

The pandemic nearly broke Tina Miller.

Three years after the pandemic nearly drove her to bankruptcy, Tina is celebrating Small Business Saturday at the Grand Opening of her 7th Walkabout Outfitter location in downtown Williamsburg.

Miller is soaking in every moment because just three years ago, she was standing at the ledge, looking at financial ruin. During the height of the pandemic, business at her six outdoor gear stores was down 90%. To keep the doors of their outdoor equipment and clothing stores open, Tina and her husband Kirk went months without paying themselves in order to make sure their managers continued to reviece full paychecks and benefits.

It was the worst year of my life, and I’ve been through a lot including very aggressive cancer, and knowing what I know now, I’d have picked going through that horrible year of cancer before going through 2020! Unfortunately, I had to go through both.”


Tina and staff celebrate the grand opening of the Williamsburg location earlier this week.


But Walkabout eked through the worst of it and to Tina’s surprise bounced back much faster than expected. In 2022, all 6 locations came close to breaking even and would have this year but for inflation and staffing problems.

Tina thinks – and hopes – her Williamsburg store will quickly become the most profitable. Nestled in quaint Colonial Williamsburg, Merchant Square is a tourist’ shopping haven. However, out-of-towners won’t keep her in business. She needs community buy in and loyal customers and so far, she’s thrilled with the number of folks stopping in to welcome Walkabout to the neighborhood, many of whom are already familiar with her name and products.

You won’t find giant sale signs in our windows on Small Business Saturday because we focus on customer service and local knowledge. However, if you’re dead set on scoring the cheapest pair out there, we’ll not only match it, but we’ll send you home with knowledge about some of our favorite local hikes from urban treks to intel on the best backcountry shelters on the Appalachian Trail.

We donate gift certificates and prizes to local auctions and fundraisers and help conserve public lands. We offer free classes and events, we occupy storefronts, we’re involved in community programs- and we love that part of who we are! Do you think Amazon cares one iota about your community?

The pandemic forced Tina to make some changes to stay competitive. While her stores were under a mandated shut down, she expanded customer outreach by adding internet shopping on her website. This month, Tina’s unveiling Walkabout’s own brand of quality apparel to compete with own vendors have beefed up their direct-to-consumer websites.

There is some positive to come out of the pandemic and that’s the growing sense of community. Every day, Tina sees people with a better understanding of the value of shopping locally. So get out today and invest in your community!

Related Content: Small Business News | Virginia

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