It takes a community of unique shops, restaurants and neighbors to preserve an island's heritage against the squall of today's rapidly changing world. 

But for Tybee Island, maintaining its identity has never been an issue.

"Visitors always tell us that they don't see beach communities like this anymore," says Chantel Morton, Main Street coordinator on Tybee Island. 

"Tybee manages to be progressive while still remembering its Americana roots. We want to preserve this as much as possible."

On Nov. 30, residents and visitors alike are offered an excellent opportunity to support Tybee's rare cultural heritage by shopping at the island's local businesses. 

Small Business Saturday is an all-day event featuring more than 20 shops around the island. 

The event is in conjunction with American Express' Shop Small program and Tybee Island Main Street.

"Shopping local is important to me because it is a bond with and a contribution to the community," Chantel says. 

"Owners and their employees are neighbors and give of their time generously. 

"It means so much to have an opportunity to show my support through hometown commerce."

One of the participating shops and a mainstay in Tybee Island life is Seaside Sisters, owned by Susan Kelleher.

Several years ago, Susan worked as a sales representative for a gift line company. The job required constant travel across state lines. 

"I was looking for a way to get off the road," Susan says. 

She decided to find a spot on Tybee Island, where she lived with her husband, to open a small storefront.

Susan and several friends discussed renting a room in a shop on U.S. 80 to sell their wares, and Seaside Sisters was born. 

"We found good success and really loved what we were doing," she says.

After a year, the owner of the store decided not to renew her lease, and the Seaside Sisters stepped in to rent the space. 

Seven years later, Seaside Sisters is double the size and still running strong.

What can a customer expect to find at Seaside Sisters? 

"All things beachy, new and repurposed vintage home decor, furniture, shabby and chic items, jewelry, clothing, art and the best junk around!" Susan says.

Vendors include authors Mary Kay Andrews, Polly Powers Stramm and Nancy Smith, as well as Diane Kaufman (who donates all her profits to benefit her favorite animal causes) and "Treasure Room Queen" Sandra Blount. 

"If you have ever been in Sandra's room in the shop, you will know what I mean," Susan says. 

"Small children have gotten lost in there."

"Well, we do have a special little paradise here on Tybee," Susan says of her home. 

"We are not a resort; there are no pretensions here. But we have the most wonderful mix of caring, evolved folks who get involved and love their home despite the politics and parking issues."

When Susan lost her husband of 37 years just a couple of years ago, it was the community's constant support that kept her strong. 

"We are all in it together as an island, and that is one of the best reasons to live here," she says.

Susan is excited for Small Business Saturday. 

"It's a pleasure to see a giant company like American Express spearheading a Shop Small event," Susan says. 

"They must realize that without the little guys, the mom and pops, our cities and towns would be nothing but a giant cookie-cutter box of cheap, imported stuff."

"Now if we can just get the event to become Shop Small Every Saturday, then we really have done our jobs," she says.

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