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RuLissa, a new boutique in downtown Mandan, will celebrate its first Small Business Saturday with a grand opening.

Melissa Herz and Ruth Thomas had sold items at vendor shows but the 200 Collins Ave. location is their first storefront.

When the location became available, the mother-daughter pair decided to take a shot.

“Mandan needs it,” Herz said.

RuLissa has curvy and regular sizes of largely casual clothing as well as jewelry and accessories. It also carries Christmas decor and some antiques.

Herz said they’ve been teaming with other local entities to encourage support of small business. Art From the Heart held a painting party in the store and RuLissa was part of Mandan’s Holiday Open House Event.

“I hope it brings in people just to shop local and give us little guys a shot,” Herz said of Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

This year, local retailers, such as Herz and Thomas, are headed into the holiday shopping season with one less competitive disadvantage to online shopping.

Thanks to a summer Supreme Court ruling, South Dakota v. Wayfair, this Small Business Saturday will be the first in which online retailers making at least 200 transactions or $100,000 in sales per year in North Dakota will be required to collect sales tax and remit it to the state.

The online retail giant Amazon had already been collecting sales tax in the state because it had a long-standing physical space in Grand Forks that made it a requirement. But since the ruling, more than 1,500 online retailers have registered with North Dakota’s Tax Department.

On numerous occasions, shoppers have stood wearing a prom dress in the dressing room of KooKoo’s Nest, 114 N. Fifth St. in Bismarck, and pulled their phones out to see if they could get that same dress cheaper online, said owner Kinzey Fockler.

It’s been frustrating to Fockler, who spent time helping the customer with sizes and fit only to lose the sale to a virtual competitor.

Whether the Wayfair ruling ends up helping her business compete remains to be seen, according to Fockler, who also considers it part of her job to educate consumers about the benefits of buying local.

“Why buy from a stranger on the internet when you can buy from a local person here in front of you?” she said, pointing out it’s those local businesses that donate items to silent auctions, raise $6,000 for the Bismarck Cancer Center or speak to classrooms about entrepreneurship.

Small Business Saturday is all about recognizing the good local businesses do and supporting that as a community, said Fockler, adding that nine out of 10 local retailers will say it’s their favorite day of the year.

“It’s so rewarding to see the streets full,” she said of her favorite sight each year as a line forms outside her door that morning waiting for her to open.

Brian Ritter, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce, said the response has been “tremendous” in recent years for shopping locally, from downtowns to local shopping malls.

“These businesses are most often owned by our neighbors, by our friends, by our peers, and so for us to support them, for us to put an emphasis on supporting them, I think is the least we can do,” Ritter said.

There was a six-page section in the Thursday Bismarck Tribune explaining the chamber’s and Tribune’s role in Small Business Saturday.

Leslie Eckert, owner of Soul Interiors, 110 N. Fifth St. in Bismarck, said it’s her busiest day of the year.

“It’s packed,” she said of the checkout line often stretching to the middle of the store. “I love the hype it creates."

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or


Business Reporter