Page After Page bookstore owner Susan Hinkle brought in some experienced extra help to assist with the rush of Christmas shoppers on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday this weekend.

Jack Papineau cleaned book shelves, handed Page After Page customers book marks, and even made sure that the water dish for customers’ dogs outside the bookstore was always filled.

The 8-year-old’s efforts got a thumbs-up from Hinkle, who also happens to be Jack’s grandmother.

Hinkle said Jack has been working in her bookstore on Main Street since he could walk. She said he had been a big help on the busy weekend.

Page After Page was among the downtown Elizabeth City businesses open after the Grand Illumination Friday night and participating in Small Business Saturday.

Page After Page customers started buying early on Black Friday and Hinkle said the store was a hub of activity after the downtown Christmas lights where turned on Friday night.

“We have been packed,” Hinkle said. “We were busy when we opened the doors Friday and after the Grand Illumination ceremony business was incredible. That really brought a lot of people in.”

Jack, a third-grader who lives in Virginia Beach, said he likes it when the store is busy. He said he works to complete any chore his grandmother sets for him.

“The funniest part of my job is watching the people grab a book and buy it,” he said. “I also like putting the water out for the dogs because I really like dogs. I’m really used to doing all this stuff because I have been here for a while. I like coming here to visit.”

Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 by American Express to encourage holiday shoppers to shop at local brick-and-mortar retail stores the day after Black Friday. Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. has been participating in the event for years and for the third year in a row set up a booth on Main Street to hand out cookies and cloth shopping bags.

The bags are extremely popular. Featuring a new design every year, some shoppers have started collecting them.

Southern Healing Integrative Therapy Center owners Autumn Henderson and Othella Price are experiencing their first Christmas shopping season at their new location on N. Poindexter Street. Business has been steady so far, they said.

In addition to offering massages Southern Healing also sells a wide variety of products, including homemade lye-based soap and custom-blended teas that are produced by Henderson’s daughters Starr, Lealonna and Abigail.

Henderson said the business eventually hopes to offer only North Carolina-made products.

“There is a tea for memory loss, there is one for sleep and many are seasonal-type teas like for flu season,” Henderson said. “The soap can be made in an hour but you have to let it cure for six weeks.’’

Several new businesses have recently opened or plan to open in downtown and the area is expected to see even more new retail activity after the 44 apartment units at Weatherly Lofts open. Officials hope the apartments will attract a bodega, which is a small neighborhood grocery store.

“I would really, really like to see a small bodega-type grocery story,” said EDIC Director Debbie Malenfant. “As we get these apartments on board and more people are renovating their buildings into apartments and people are living downtown, the grab-and-go grocery, the grab-and-grow meals are extremely important.”