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Bridgeport Library Becomes Hub For Small Business

Cassandra Basler

The aroma of evergreen embers filled the conference room at the Bridgeport Public Library, but it wasn’t coming from the fire that burned in the stone hearth.

“This is my fireplace scent,” said Terri Walker as she handed librarian Scott Hughes one of the scented soy candles she handcrafted.

“It smells good,” Hughes said to Walker. “Beats my fire!”

Walker brought Hughes samples of the products she planned to sell at the library’s pop-up shop for Shop Small Saturday. Hughes said the pop-up holiday shop is part of the first organized effort to promote Small Business Saturday downtown.

“The library just has a key role to play in economic development downtown,” said Hughes. “We have a lot of space for different vendors.”

Dozens of Bridgeport-based vendors set up on Saturday in the Bridgeport Public Library’s popular space, a 3,000 square foot room open room with bright windows overlooking clusters of family-owned restaurants across the street.

“Downtown Bridgeport is not known for having a lot of retail space, yet,” said Shop Small event organizer, Valeria Bisceglia. “A few business owners here and there participated in Small Business Saturday on their own over the years, but this is the first community effort to bring in restaurants and all the people downtown.”

Bisceglia works with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center and teaches an entrepreneurship class at the library.

Walker has been coming to Bisceglia’s class for six weeks to learn how to transform her passion for making soy candles into a business. She said she’s excited to showcase her candle company, TW Home Essentials.

“I don’t have a storefront like most folks downtown,” Walker said. “My business is still pretty much new, so I like to get out so people know who exactly who TW Essentials [is].”

Walker said the events Hughes sponsors at the library have helped her network with other women entrepreneurs, and it’s helped her spread the word about her business.

Bisceglia said it was important to get the community partners like the library involved in downtown Bridgeport’s first Shop Small event. She asked Hughes for help going door to door talking to neighboring small businesses. Together, they recruited dozens of local restaurants and retailers to offer discounts to people shopping with a coupon book called the Shop Small Passport.

“People that live here don’t even know about the businesses around the corner from where they live,” Bisceglia said. “So I think it’s a great opportunity to rally the community and get them out there and get them to understand about all these different little shops that are in here, that a lot of people don’t even know exist.”