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In the Middle of CommUnity, There’s U

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Published on November 24, 2020

Take a drive along whatever main street is located in your hometown and there’s a good chance you’ll recognize the small businesses or restaurants where many of life’s memorable moments were realized. As the backdrop to your life, you can’t help but recall:

“We got engaged in that restaurant.”
“That’s the ice cream parlor we stopped at to celebrate my first home run.”
“My first job was at that coffee shop.”
“We had our first date at that corner movie theatre.”

Any of these sound familiar? It’s likely they do. With the help of hometown businesses you can make a house a home and turn city blocks into beloved communities. Right now, those businesses need our help. They need us all to shop local so they can survive mandatory changes that affect how they service customers, make a profit while limiting their capacity, and adapt to shifts in their usual traffic patterns. All of this at the brink of the holiday season, the time of year merchants tend to rely on most.

With a little effort, and by rethinking the way we shop, we can help these small businesses survive what is sure to be a stressful time. Here’s a few things to consider that just might help.

Rethink Gift Cards

Right now, gift cards equal cash, and businesses need cash. When you’re shopping for that special person this holiday season, don’t hesitate to purchase a gift card. You can add sentiment or help connect the dots to the ways the gift card matters by including a special note. Add a message like “It might look like a gift card, but this is really a way we’re supporting “X” business make it through tough times” or “This gift card is our way of paying it forward to “X” business.”  From restaurants to salons to the local bakery, it’s a gift that benefits everyone equally, the one receiving the card and the business. If you’re apprehensive about going out to purchase the card, check to see if you can send an electronic version, have it mailed to you or the recipient, or swing by for curbside pick-up.

Community bakeryLocal Specialties

Whatever you need this holiday season, whether it’s a holiday wreath for your front door, brunch for 15, or hand-dipped chocolates for your upstairs neighbor, there’s a good chance a local florist, caterer, or candy maker in your area that can fill the need. This might be the time to discover a store in your neighborhood. Make a point to visit one you’ve driven past for years but never stopped to discover what makes their product or service so treasured by others in the community. As part of their safety precautions, merchants are embracing curbside pick-up or call ahead orders. You can place your order then pick it up at your convenience.

Shop Online Locally

Now that you’ve gotten the hang of shopping online, keep in mind that local stores can take your order and mail your item just as easily as the department stores. It might take a little more searching, but chances are, you’ll find that item you’re looking for at a local shop. In many instances, local businesses already have an online presence. Have you checked Facebook to see what they’re promoting? What about Instagram? If they hadn’t done so before March, now, many small businesses have embraced social media and routinely post new products to entice and engage their customers. Along with social media, they’ve embraced new ways to deliver purchases to customers and are likely happy to prepare your purchase for same-day, curbside pick-up. Remember to shop safe when you shop online. Here’s a few safety reminders.

Shopping for the person who has everything? (Including yourself!)

While practical has gotten a bad rap over the years, there’s something to be said for not having to pay for an item that’s become a routine purchase. Consider purchasing a gift card for some kind of good or service. If you pay for someone’s next oil change, hair appointment, or dry cleaning bill, you’ll be helping the local business and freeing up money so the other person can re-allocate that money toward something flashier. Or, let’s say your practical gift comes at a time when they could really use extra cash. For some who abide by a strict budget, your gift means having a chance to splurge in a way they normally wouldn’t. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Purchase a gift card for a local cleaning service. What mom or grandmother wouldn’t love to have their house polished and perfect for the new year.
  • How about a haircut? Now that’s a gift everyone would love. You know where your family members and friends go for a cut and color, stop by and purchase a gift certificate or ask if they will mail you one.
  • For the pet-lover in the family (or yourself). Stop by a local groomer and prepay for a visit. They’ll appreciate the up-front payment and so will your four-legged friend.  
  • Looking for a new outfit, make sure you check local boutiques first. There are more of them out there than you think, and they’re located right in your own backyard. Plus, during the holiday season, they’re usually more flexible with their exchange policy.
Think Small

This year, challenge yourself to think bigger by thinking smaller. When you think about how your spending affects your own community, it’s an easy shift to make. There are so many local businesses ready and willing to make this a special holiday season. Your neighbor with the cute little bakery or the boutique needs you right now. Show them how much you care. Let’s all make sure that our main streets continue to have thriving local businesses that offer convenient shopping and dining options and provide spots where the next generation can make memories that will last a lifetime.

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