“Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere.” – Paul Ryan
This past Saturday, my husband and I helped stimulate the local economy when we stepped out onto Main Street and took part in “Small Business Saturday.”
The idea isn’t really new to us. A few years ago, when we took the kids for a weekend get-away, we stayed away from stores and restaurants that we could patronize at home. The goal was to get a flavor for the towns we visited, to try foods indigenous to the area, and it spurned a habit that has continued today.
When our son worked at a small independent grocery store, I began to really see the need in supporting a business that supported my child through his high school years. The grocery store still receives a sizable portion of our grocery budget. They were flexible in working around his school and sport schedules. And now that our daughter works at a family-owned pizzeria, we support that business as well. These small, local businesses have been the springboard for students, first-time job holders and career paths for generations.
In addition to frequenting these businesses, we shop at our local Farmer’s Market almost every weekend, buying the freshest, locally-grown produce, farm-raised meats, flowers, honey and other grocery items. It is tastefully rewarding, to say the least. And we are getting to know the farmers that grow our food.
On our Saturday outing, we first stopped at the market. In addition to the usual load of produce, we discovered two local bakeries who have stands in the market, and, well, we started on our mission to stimulate the local economy. Then, we visited a few of the antique and vintage clothing vendors, where I found a winter jacket and – bonus – a vintage hat to match my previous week’s vintage coat find. The cost of the coats, plus the hat and dry cleaning bill came to the same price I would have paid for one coat at a big-box chain store, and the coats are unique! And warm – amazingly warm.
We loaded our finds into the car, and off to the next stop, a thrift store, where there were all kinds of cool items from clothing to furniture to kitchen gadgets. I found an apple peeler – which would have been very handy when making my apple pie for Thanksgiving. (It was suggested that I now have no excuse to not make another!)
On we walked down Main Street, where we found yet another bakery, several unique clothing stores where we purchased Christmas gifts, and then we happened upon a mom and pop burger joint where we enjoyed sliders, fries and a beverage – lunch for two for $10. Not bad.
We couldn’t complain about the weather – sunny and around 40 degrees in November for our neck of the woods. It made the day even more enjoyable. Fresh air and fashionable finds – I found myself enjoying shopping, which is always more of a chore than a pleasure for me. I loved the fact that each shop we stopped in had friendly owners willing to take the time to assist us with our questions, and just chat. It felt good to purchase items right here in our community – the businesses that support our local schools and churches whenever we call looking for an item for a charity auction or a raffle.
I would be remiss if I didn’t disclose that I was a bit miffed at the larger retailers who opened on Thanksgiving this year, and I grew insanely weary of all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday commercials that ran on television and on the radio – not to mention the explosion of emails landing in my inbox. So, in my own small way, I’d like to think I sent a message of support to the businesses who did not participate in all the marketing hoopla.
For me, going to a big-box store was part of my usual routine when looking for a gift, furniture or clothing. But, taking a day and really exploring and walking the shops through my town, I now have a better idea of the unique options available. And I have a better appreciation for the folks who have chosen to make their living by being small business owners. I plan to support them more frequently, as they support my immediate community and schools. Who knows… I may end up becoming a shopaholic!
Did you participate in Small Business Saturday? If so, did you find the experience favorable?