(This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer)
You’ve heard the old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? When it comes to Father’s Day this upcoming weekend, that adage seems to be a marketing tactic for many small businesses in the area.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the idea of Father’s Day was conceived more than a century ago by a young woman in Spokane Washington to honor her father, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm. The day was formalized as a national holiday taking place on the third Sunday of June in 1972 by then President Nixon — and its popularity has exploded since then.
The National Retail Federation estimates that consumer spending this Father’s Day will be about $20 billion with about 76 percent of U.S. adults celebrating the occasion.
For local small businesses, it seems that much of this celebration will centeraround the two things fathers seem to like the most: food and drink.
“We will be doing an all you can eat Buffet for Father’s Day,” Brooke Higgins Chef/Owner of Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse in Northeast Philadelphia. Father’s dayand Mother’s day are among the busiest days of the year for the restaurant, which has been in business since 2003 and employs about 20 people full time.
“It’s a crazy day, and we do our best to keep up and “serve happiness,” Higgins says.
Lots of food is also on the table at Center City’s Iron Brewery. The restaurant chain — which has more than a dozen locations in the Philadelphia area — is doing a special menu and running a gift card promotion in honor of the big day. “It’s an important day for us,” says Brendan Mullan, a Regional Chef at the restaurant. “Of course, any holiday involving celebration combined with great food and beer is a solid day for us.”
BBQ and beer does sound right up dad’s alley. But some also like a nice glass of wine…or bourbon. And to serve that audience, Carley Razzi, who co-owns the Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford is holding a special Father’s Day wine and whiskey event where a two experts will guide guests through the creation of cocktails that include both in a classroom setting located inside the winery’s enclosed patio. Razzi, like many other small business owners, sees events like Father’s Day as an opportunity to attract new customers to their business.
“People that are looking for a fun and unique way to celebrate a holiday will attend one of our events and then hopefully become a long-term customer, or even a Wine Club Member,” she says.
Matt Hendricks, the owner of Thirsty Dice, which since 2018 has been providing food, drinks (and milkshakes!) along with and games, likens Father’s Day to just another reason to get families together to enjoy a mutual activity. “Certain holidays have been great for welcoming families in, like Mother’s Day brunch or Halloween,” says Hendricks. “But with Father’s Day, it’s been much more focused on outdoor activities.”
And Kensington Community Food Co-Op, a member-owned grocery store, cafe, and bar serving Kensington, Fishtown, Port Richmond will be offering Father’s Day specials all weekend on local beers, organic vegetables and “happy meat” (local sustainably raised meat products).
I know it seems like I’m harping on food and drink…and I am. But other small businesses in the area who aren’t in the restaurant or bar industry are also leveraging Father’s Day to increase their sales.
For example, The Philadelphia Barber Co. and Hemlock Grooming Supply — which provides haircuts and sells grooming products to both barbers and consumers — is offering two Father’s Day promotions that give discounts on their grooming supplies and are even offering a special price on a father/son haircut.
“Father’s Day is always a good time at the shop,” says Ken Cairns, a co-owner. “We have many clients who bring their kids in with them for their own services, and we love having the opportunity to develop those relationships.”
Will higher prices keep shoppers away? It doesn’t seem that way. Most of the small business owners I spoke to have done a good job restructuring their menus and product offerings to balance out inflation and supply chain issues so that they can still serve their guests within their budgets. Prices have gone up, for sure. And some are offering a little less for the same price. But these changes aren’t expected to have a significant impact on demand.
“My expectation is that if we maintain a reasonable retail price, we can work together to get through any inflation that is forthcoming — allowing our business to stay open and producing high quality wines from locally grown grapes, and happy customers that aren’t seeing prices that are completely out of reach,” says Razzi.
But some, like Hendricks, see higher prices already having an impact on their buying behavior.
“I think owners are running out of tricks, and customers are continuing to need to find efficiencies in their own budgets, so they are increasingly turning to lower cost alternatives,” he says. “With Father’s Day turning more of a focus to outdoor activities, I would guess some families will turn to a picnic and hike in lieu of a ballgame or heading out for dinner.”