On my birthday this year, my mom surprised me with the news that she ran into one of my longtime mentors and inspirations in my life, the wife of a local entrepreneur and fashion and retail mogul from the town where I grew up.
My mom had bumped into Mrs. Betty Donecker, wife of Bill Donecker, owner of Doneckerís of Ephrata.
Their business provided the first job I received my first real paycheck from at age 15 ó and one that led me down my current path as a small business owner, operating a high-end fashion and home decor consignment store.
Just a few weeks ago, I heard about the passing of another small business owner in downtown Ephrata who inspired me along the way ó Richard Root. He had a camera shop and a small local sporting goods store. Every student who played sports in the area would patronize his businesses, buying their uniforms, sports equipment and cameras to capture those magical moments on film there.
He was very much a family man and he put his all into nurturing and providing for his family and being a leader in his community as a respectable businessman. His spirit will live on within me as well, as he also gave me one of my first jobs in retail.
Local business owners like the Doneckers and Richard Root made Ephrata into the community it is. Itís a place that is near and dear to me and a place that I still call home. For me, growing up in Ephrata embodied the essence of what a small home town looked like, but more importantly, how it felt. It had the energy that exuded from a thriving community, where small business grew and was supported and sustained by the local community it served.
With Small Business Saturday coming up on Nov. 30 and the holiday shopping season upon us, nowís the time when we are reminded of the importance of local businesses to our communities.
Before there was online shopping, big discount stores and big box stores, there were small mom and pop shops that built the small towns sprinkled throughout America. They really were and still are a part of the backbone of our communities, our economy and our overall American culture and society.
Thatís because we are all humans, and we like to be in connection with one another. People like helping others and many go out of their way to make a difference. Small business entrepreneurs understand the meaning and importance of delivering personal and friendly customer service.
Often, consumers donít realize that there is much more at stake than just not doing well in business. There is an emotional, as well as financial, risk. My customers and family really inspire and motivate me to continue to deliver and achieve greatness for them. When community members support you, they inadvertently become your bosses. You are always trying to please them and not let them down.
So, when choosing where to spend your money this holiday season, choose small businesses for all of these reasons.
Please mark your calendar for Nov. 30 and patronize your local mom and pop stores on Small Business Saturday. Itís a day to celebrate and support your local businesses. Pack the stores and shop small this year.
Melynda Wagner owns French Creek Boutique, an upscale fashion consignment store in Elverson.