The Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce made small businesses its business Tuesday for its first neighborhood block party in Market Heights.

The event allowed vendors to display their wares in a central location for shoppers who will be out and about during Small Business Saturday, said Gina Pence, chamber president and CEO.

“We’re hoping that it’ll grow tremendously,” Pence said. “There’s great traffic flow here, and vendors brought everything from fresh items that someone may want to use to prepare for Thanksgiving to homemade items that make great gifts.”

The event was free to chamber members and open to vendors that participated in the Harker Heights Farmers Market as well as others who paid a small fee, she said.

Each participant received a $25 American Express gift card, as American Express conceived Small Business Saturday in 2010 for the weekend after Thanksgiving, Pence said.

Michael Zambrano, owner and founder of Z’s Bees, has seen his products grow to be carried in more than 40 stores.

Yet Zambrano still brings his honey sticks, soaps, candles, honey varieties and honeycomb to local farmers markets and events.

“These events help because it helps get your name out, and it lets the customer know that you are around,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who say that they never knew that they had a local beekeeper or a local jeweler, or someone who does popcorn.”

Killeen residents Jan and Terry Knotts, owners of Jan’s Beef Jerky and Papa’s Pickles, brought their five homemade beef jerky varieties and pickled goods.

“We were doing the Harker Heights Farmers Market, but it ended, so the Chamber of Commerce did me a favor,” Terry Knotts said.

Jeff Oaks, one of the owners of Belton Veggie Guys, also received a notification about the event through the farmers market.

He brought a few of his organic peppers and canned jellies he made from peppers he saved before the recent freeze.

“You have a very diverse customer base here, so all of my weird peppers and weird things that I grow people here will buy them, and they’ll actually know what some of them are,” Oaks said.

Also taking advantage of Tuesday’s event were R.E. Cavazos Elementary School PTO representatives.

Rebecca Escobar, PTO president, and Bonita Henderson, PTO treasurer, brought Kool-Aid Jammers and Capri Sun bags, wallets, bookmarks and identification holders they are selling to raise money for playground equipment.

“The kids know to recycle because this is what we make of them,” Escobar said, adding the items will be at the Harker Heights Frost Fest on Dec. 12 and a Dec. 13 Christmas craft fair at the elementary school.

Browsing several of the vendor booths Tuesday were Killeen residents Daniel and Carmen Garcia, who have yet to start their Christmas shopping.

“We’re a small business,” said Carmen Garcia, a Harker Heights attorney. “So we support other small businesses.”

Contact Rachael Riley at rriley@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7553

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