As they gear up to raid stores for discounts on Black Friday, Christmas shoppers may be overlooking another event that could have a major impact on the local economy.

Founded in 2010 by American Express, one of the nation’s major credit card companies, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize brick and mortar operations that are small and local two days after Thanksgiving.

Pasadena is running a citywide Shop Small campaign that’s filled with discounts and other freebies at local independent businesses, including restaurants, clothing stores, boutiques and thousands of other local businesses.

Pasadena Economic Development Director Eric Duyshart told the Pasadena Weekly that businesses like these make up the majority of merchants doing business in the city.

“If you look at Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks and Lake avenues it is not national or large corporations that take up that space. Many of them are small, independent business,” said Duyshart. “Those are the people who provide the diversity in commerce and a range of resources and different services that are not very common.”

But still they struggle in many places like Old Pasadena where many businesses have been forced to close because they did not make enough money to cover exorbitant rents.

“The uniqueness of Pasadena is the small businesses here. If we want to maintain that we need to support them,” said Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Little.

Old Pasadena will have four welcome stations to help shoppers find participating businesses.

Shoppers can pick up free tote bags and get information about each business at the welcome stations.

The stations will be located at CREPEstudio, 99 E. Union St.; Homage, 2 E. Holly St.; We Olive & Wine Bar, 52 E. Colorado Blvd.; and Old Pasadena Pharmacy & Marketplace, 155 S. De Lacey Ave.

“It is something that is really exciting,” said Old Pasadena Management District CEO Steve Mulheim. “About 70 percent of the businesses are small business. The west end is where people frequent a lot, and that is mostly national chains. Most people probably believe we have more national chains, but in reality most of the businesses are small independents.”

In Old Pasadena, 20 businesses will participate in the event.

Bone Kettle restaurant will offer a 40 percent discount on wine.

Distant Lands will offer $10 gift cards with every purchase of a gift card of $75 or more, and Goldbug — which moved from Union Street to nearby Kendall Alley — will offer 20 percent off on their jewelry.

Neon Retro Arcade will have several giveaways, including movie tickets and discounted admission.

Old Pasadena Pharmacy & Marketplace will provide free samples of food and beauty products.

“I think the independents benefit from Black Friday just like the national chains,” said Mulheim. “But this is a great way to highlight what the small businesses have as well. Because they carry one-of-a kind things you are not just supporting that business but the artists that are creating the goods. That money tends to stay local and is beneficial to the local economy.”

Ambassador Guides in the Playhouse District have been surprising unsuspecting visitors with American Express gift cards ranging from $20 to $100 at select district businesses.

“We don’t have an actual event. Every day we are featuring a small business on social media and encouraging people to go to them,” said Playhouse District Spokesperson Jessica Calderon.

Vroman’s Bookstore in Hastings Ranch will hold a special Indies First day featuring authors as booksellers. Pasadena author Chip Jacobs and fellow author Jessica Cluess will be in the store helping customers find books.

In the South Lake Avenue Business District, Ten Thousand Villages will hold a fair trade holiday benefit kickoff party.

“I think because of social media there is a consumer awareness of which retailers are close to where people live and work,” Duyshart said. “We hope people use those businesses. People don’t give glowing reviews for the big chains as much as they do for the independent. It’s slowly transitioning from restaurants to retailers.”