Where will you shop this season?
It is "that" time of year. We are all a bit harried. Between the holidays, the economy, and just trying to survive having Santa in stores since August, I know I am a little frayed.
I do still have some shopping to do - I know I bought gifts for this year last year, but I have no clue where I put them.
That brings up the question of where to shop. Are you going online? Braving the crowds? It's an important question to ask. Where will you shop? Who will you buy from? In the land of online shopping and big box stores, I think it can become easy to forget that small, independent businesses are just that - small and independent. Somewhere in a cramped corner lurks the owner. She or he probably does not make a fortune from the business. In fact, in lean years, the ends might get met by a cash infusion from the owner's own funds. There are no massive bonuses. Employees do not fight for corner offices. Rather, they hope there is a place to store their lunch.
Why does this even matter? It matters because small businesses do what huge stores cannot. They stock those weird and wonderful specialty items you can't find anywhere else. Need a tofu press? We have it. Need sprinkles for your cupcakes? Go to Make It Sweet in Austin - they have an entire wall of them. Inventory is controlled by the owners, not by a corporate entity. That's why we stock things you will not see elsewhere. Many also support local artists and artisans. If you want to find at item you cannot find in any other place, check out local businesses.
Small businesses are also closely connected to the community. Think about the last silent auction or raffle you went to. Who supplied the items you hoped to win? I would be willing to bet that 95% were provided by local businesses. These businesses support the local organizations like the volunteer fire department, 4-H, FFA, the band, the cheerleaders, and many more. How many of the businesses that have supported your organization have you supported?
Local businesses hire local people - often people who might have a hard time getting a job in a large company. High school students don't have time to work long hours. A small business could have short shifts they can work. Students get work experience and time for school. Many retired people (myself included) don't want a full-time job. Many small businesses can offer them the chance to work a few days a week.
If you go into a local business, there is a good chance you will be greeted and helped - quite possibly by someone you know, or who knows your cousin's wife's niece. The people working there know their inventory and are more than willing to tell you everything there is to know about a product. At Der Küchen Laden, there is a good chance you will get more information than you want. We'll also give you recipes.
There are about a billion (or almost than many) reasons to shop locally. The primary one is because small businesses are important. Do you want to be able to shop in stores that are unique? Do you want businesses that support the community? If you do, then you have to choose to shop your small businesses, wherever you happen to be.
In closing, I want to encourage all of you to shop with local and small businesses. If you cannot go in person, call. I know we are delighted to provide help over the phone. And, if we are swamped, we will call you back.
I hope I see or talk to many of you this holiday season. Remember, with your support, small and local businesses will thrive.