By Alecia Reid

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Center City District saw an influx of customers as people ventured in to patronize businesses for Shop Center City Saturday. Exclusive discounts, giveaways, and shopping local brands were all part of the experience.

Business owners in Center City say reopening has been bittersweet after not seeing their customers for months on end. They know there’s a long battle ahead of them, but they believe they will get there.

Wandering through Center City, some small businesses are still bouncing back from months of shuttered doors. Shop Center City Saturday was the perfect time to throw in customer appreciation sales.

Shakespeare & Company reopened in July to a slow start. Discounts helped reel customers back in, and you don’t have to be a member. Everything in the store is fair game.

“Almost like a family who’s here all the time,” Shakespeare & Company assistant manager Eric Davidson said. “They’re here to support us, helping us out. They love coming in, they love browsing, they love looking at the books. All we really want to do is get the cafe going, get the machine going if we can even do that just so we can be more of the community than what it’s been.”

Benjamin Lovell Shoes is offering 50% off plus gifts with purchase while supplies last, and customers looked forward to their fall footwear swing next weekend.

“We sent out invitations to our best customers and we’re going to have try-on events where we raffle free pairs of shoes, gift with purchase,” John Holden, Benjamin Lovell Shoes’s chief operating officer, said. “Trying to put the fun back in the shoe business again.”

The pandemic continues, but as restrictions continue to be lifted, Philadelphia is bouncing back.

Jewelry designer and ritual shop owner Angela Monaco says COVID-19 has made shoppers more aware of small businesses.

“During the pandemic, everyone’s had to slow down and really take a look at where they’re spending their money,” Monaco said. “And maybe they used to shop local during the holiday, but now people are more realizing that it’s important to support those small businesses because they could be gone.”

She’s right. That support is needed now more than ever.

“It’s more important now than ever to support these businesses,” Kelly McAllister, the senior manager of retail marketing and events at Center City District, said. “Between restaurants and retailers in greater Philadelphia, it provides over 39,000 jobs, which is 13% of all jobs in downtown.”

The challenge continues for some businesses and events like Saturday’s help restore jobs that were lost due to the pandemic.

Customers now get to enjoy the experiences they miss and the hospitality industry can rebuild.