In honor of National Small Business Week, I’d like to encourage everyone to shop local! As a Small Business Administration’s SCORE Mentor, I’m more enthused than ever to support entrepreneurs. Let’s all help business owners to succeed in building unique businesses that help to build healthy communities.
It has been disturbing for me to see so many of my favorite local small businesses shut down. We all know that high vacancy rates in our communities invite crime and general deterioration of the area, which devalues our housing prices along with diminished community image.
My favorite shopping places are scrapbooking and stamping stores. Two of my favorites were located in Issaquah, just a few miles east of where I live. One of the stores, Lasting Impressions has already closed its doors. I seriously went into depression about this! I sent an email to Shirley, the store’s owner and expressed how much I will miss shopping there. My dog Max and I spent many hours in this store, browsing through its numerous aisles which were filled with stamps of all kinds. It was a good feeling to have the staff call me by my first name and they even remembered Max’s name! Every time Max and I visited the store, staff came over and played with Max. One staff member even brought over a Jack Russell Terrier rubber stamp which looked exactly like Max. Of course I purchase the stamp.
My other favorite store in Issaquah was the Mad Scrapper. The store’s owner, Deanna, owned this store for seventeen years and she worked hard to keep her shelves stocked with the latest papers and embellishments. Keeping a full inventory is not an easy task during difficult economic times. Deanna held on-going workshops for her customers. The classes were free as long as we purchased our supplies from her store. There was no doubt that she put in extremely long hours every day to keep the store’s doors open from morning until late.
One evening, I was working madly to make a cute mini-scrapbook in one of Deanna’s classes. There were ten women in this class. One of the students did not have a particular tool which she needed and was about to get up to purchase one from the store. The woman who was sitting next to her whispered, “Don’t buy it here. You can get this same tool at Michael’s for only half the price using one of their weekly coupons.”
I was so disturbed by what I heard, I couldn’t help but to tell everyone what could happen if we all thought this way. All small, local businesses will be gone, leaving us with only the large chains. Can we get this kind of personalized service from anyone other than the small business owners who struggle every day to stay in business for the simple reason that they are passionate about what they do? If stores like the Mad Scrapper are forced to go out of business (which, I’m sad to say, is exactly what happened), it will be a sad day for all of us who love the specialty stores and their amenities.
So my advice to all is, please look beyond the price and look at the big picture. Do you like what the small local store do for its customers and the community? If your answer is yes, you owe it to yourself to patronize the small businesses and do your part to keep them growing and thriving. In the end, you may end up spending a little more but you and the community will be better off with a vibrant and healthier economic growth. Happy shopping!