I did some thinking and reading this summer and had a few chances to visit many thriving downtowns and quaint little village shopping areas in an effort to see what made each place so special and bring it back to share with local business owners in our area.
Were people really buying or just “shopping?” If they were buying, what were they buying? What was the overall atmosphere of the town? Was there convenient, free and ample parking for shoppers?
I have a vested interest in gathering this data and making sense of it, so I can apply it to my business. I am one of those small business owners that strive to create a unique shopping experience and atmosphere that cultivates a relationship with our customers, coupled with the perfect blend of merchandise that will entice and encourage our community to shop with us before heading to a big box store.
But is that really enough? By no means, no. It is a place to start, but it’s not nearly enough to keep a business thriving – it needs you, the buyer, the consumer, the customer.
Everyone wants a thriving downtown or local business scene like the old days. But are consumers willing to put their money where their mouth is? Are they willing to vote with their dollars by shopping locally? There are a lot of reasons why people choose to shop or buy where they do, and we all have freedom to do so. That’s what we love about America. But another thing we love about America – the spirit and intimacy of small business – could slip past if we don’t support it.
We need to pull our resources together. If all of us were to change our buying behavior away from the big box stores and towards small business, we would encourage, boost and bolster the success and progress of locally owned small business so that it is sustainable.
Maybe it’s a birthday present, or a bouquet of flowers, or dinner at a local BYOB diner in Morgantown or St. Peter’s, or buying mulch and plants for your garden at the local garden center, or cheese or your favorite coffee from the farmer’s market. By simply making one or two purchases a month at one of these local businesses, you will make a difference to them. By buying from them, you are contributing to that small business by increasing their overall sales, which translates to their hiring more employees, supporting their family and improving their cash flow. Then they can buy more selective goods, products that you really like, need and want and they can grow their business to serve you, our community.
Along with getting to know your neighbors and sharing recipes, ideas and stories, remember to buy locally because it’s vital to building a strong community. Make it a point to think, “Where else could I buy this product – I bet there’s a local small business that does the same thing or has a similar product,” and I can almost guarantee that you will get a smile, great customer service and a warm feeling in your heart.
Let’s not talk about the other quaint communities, let’s support our own. We have the businesses, they just need to be supported. I think together we can bring back the small town local business community – one small town at a time.
Check out sustainableconnections.org to see how supporting local business can help save small communities, and mark your calendar for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30. To learn more about Small Business Saturday, check out americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small.
Melynda Wagner is co-owner of French Creek Boutique & Home, located on Rt. 23 in Elverson.