University of South Florida


Support USF Alumni this Small Business Saturday

As people begin preparing for the upcoming holidays, Black Friday is once again expected to be the most popular shopping day of the season. But in its 10th year, Small Business Saturday has gained steam, encouraging people to support their communities by shopping local.

The shopping holiday was introduced in 2010 as a way to help small business owners bounce back from effects of the Great Recession. Since then, Small Business Saturday has grown exponentially, as over 104 million shoppers spent a record high $17.8 billion in 2018, according to the Nation Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

For small business owners Chris Scott and Bruce Van Fleet, community support has been crucial to the success their store, the Belleair Market. Both University of South Florida graduates and members of the Sigma Nu fraternity, the duo decided to become business partners after reconnecting at their chapter’s annual “Big Brother Basketball Game.”

“Chris was looking for a partner and I was retiring in a few days,” Van Fleet explained. “So, I said ‘how about me?’”

Five years later, Scott and Van Fleet attribute the market’s success to hard work, customer service and the unwavering support from its local community.

“People come in here every day and tell us it reminds them of a store they use to shop at when they were young,” said Scott. “It makes people pause and reflect on good memories. I think that’s a huge part of shopping local.”

Belleair Market Mural

With a mural on the side of the building depicting the town of Belleair’s history, it is easy to see the impact that the community has had on the Belleair Market. However, it wasn’t until 2017 when Hurricane Irma swept through the area that its owners realized how big of an impact the store has on its community.

Once the storm had passed, Scott and Van Fleet immediately un-boarded the windows and opened their doors, giving away food to utility workers, first responders and anyone in need. Many people showed up at the market, but not all of them were there for a bite to eat.

“One of my customers came in with her three daughters and said, ‘hey Chris do you need any help?’ Others came in and gave us money to help pay for the food we were giving away,” said Scott. “It was a true community moment and really the high point of the store over the last five years.”

A two-time recipient of the USF Alumni Association’s Fast 56 Award, an annual list recognizing the world’s fasted growing USF Bull-owned or Bull-led businesses, the Belleair Market is just one of many local businesses owned by USF alumni that you can support this Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.

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