Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Shopping locally on Small Business Saturday benefits ‘entire community’


A pair of shoppers step out of O’Connor’s Shoes on S. Lafayette Street while spending a day shopping in downtown Greenville on Friday afternoon. Shoppers are encouraged to show patronage to local businesses today during Small Business Saturday. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

With his office located in the heart of this community’s historic downtown district, Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paul Sischo is well aware of the importance of shopping locally.

Stepping out the front door of his office, all Sischo has to do is glance left or right down Lafayette Street to see a number of locally-owned businesses, whose owners and employees work to both make a profit and serve as a betterment to the local economy as a whole. 

“I think we have a lot of unique places in town,” he said. “I won’t start naming all of them, just to be fair, but we have a lot of places where you can get things that you simply won’t get online on Amazon. Amazon has about everything you want, but when you really want that unique item, you can find that right in town.”

Shoppers are encouraged to venture into any local store with an “Open” sign on display today to show patronage to local businesses during Small Business Saturday. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

From craft, office supply and hardware stores to pizza, healthy shake and sports bar establishments, Sischo said there are benefits to shopping in-person and locally that can’t be duplicated online. 

“By shopping locally, you’re supporting your friends, your family, the people that you rub shoulders with in the stores, the people you go to church with and that you go out to eat with,” he said. “You’re helping to support a business, but it filters down into the owners, employees and everyone who is connected to that business, allowing them to then shop locally. There really is a residual effect there.” 

Chamber Member Services Administrator Katrina Snyder added that for her, shopping locally has become a traditional aspect of her holiday shopping. 

“I love it,” she said. “My dad was a small-business owner, my husband ran a couple of different businesses that he started, and with those types of businesses in a small town, you are supporting a person, a family. It might cost you a little more in the long run, but you’re also buying something that’s unique.

“When I buy presents for members of my family, there’s always a story attached to it,” she noted. “My family lives far away. To be able to say I bought this gift from the town I live in — a little piece of where I’m at — to me, that’s cool. But more so, by doing that, I’m supporting a local business.” 

LOCAL LOOT PROGRAM

To further boost Greenville-area businesses, the Greenville Chamber once again moved forward with its “Local Loot” program this year through a $5,000 donation from the Kerschen Family Fund. Sischo said the Chamber completed the matching fund event earlier this week as area residents quickly took advantage of the program.

A woman and child take a peek through the windows of Top Hat & Tails on S. Lafayette Street in Greenville on Friday before entering Greenville Floral for some shopping. Shoppers are encouraged to show patronage to local businesses today during Small Business Saturday. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

“We really pushed that program once again,” he said. “The whole goal is to encourage people to shop locally for the holidays. The match was distributed on Monday, to ensure those dollars were available for today (Saturday).” 

This year, the amount available for each match per person was reduced from $150 to $50. 

“By reducing the match amount, it allowed for a minimum of 100 people and a maximum of 500 people, as people can choose to match as low as $10 or as high as $50,” Snyder said.

According to Snyder, last year, at a match of $150, there was a minimum of only 33 people who could take advantage if everyone had pursued the $150 match rate.” 

Sischo said earlier this year a local business was reconsidering whether to renew its membership with the Chamber and the ultimate factor that kept that business owner as a member was the Local Loot program. 

“They told me that was because they get such a benefit out of Local Loot,” he said. “The program is not without its growing pains, but we’re doing everything we can to make it as simple as possible.”  

With the program having been in existence since 2015, Sischo said Local Loot has provided a much-needed boost to local businesses. 

“Every Monday part of Katrina’s process is to pay back our businesses for what people spent using Local Loot the previous week,” he said. “We have 24 or 25 businesses on that list and we process local loot every week. There hasn’t been a week where we haven’t had people using their Local Loot.” 

Sischo is hopeful those Local Loot dollars make their way into local businesses during today’s Small Business Saturday evening. 

“The whole idea of shopping local, you’re helping these businesses stay active and open,” he said. “You contribute to the entire community in that way.” 

HOLIDAY SHOPPING PASSPORT

Ionia’s Chamber of Commerce has also come up with a fun way to inspire local shopping this year: The Holiday Shopping Passport. Participation will put you in the running for a free gift prize of your own.

Sabrina Dood of Dood’s Jewelry at 342 W. Main St. in Ionia. The shop is also the site of Mom’s Mending, a tailoring and alterations service. — DN Photo | Tim McAllister

“Consider shopping and spending locally for your holiday needs (and) supporting our local businesses through the holiday season,” said Ionia Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kat Hansen.

To get in on the Holiday Shopping Passport action, simply grab one from the Ionia Chamber Office at 439 W. Main St. or at any participating business. Then bring it to other participating businesses where, if you make a purchase of at least $2, you’ll get a stamp. When you’ve filled a passport with stamps, drop it off or mail it to the Chamber before noon on Jan. 2 to be eligible for the grand prize drawing at 4 p.m. that day (watch via Facebook live). Then you can get another passport, fill it with stamps and enter again.

The list of participating merchants is expanding constantly and can be found on the Chamber’s website at ioniachamber.net.

“There are a lot of things that happen through the holiday season, like family get-togethers and things like that, so we’re trying to bring some restaurants in on this as well,” Hansen said. “Now people can also visit restaurants to enter and win the grand prize.”

Sid’s Flower Shop at 305 W. Main St. in Ionia has a large selection of gift items in stock, including animal and bird figurines, stuffed animals, golf-related items and floral arrangements.

“If almost all of you supported local businesses in our community, a larger percentage of your money would stay within your town,” noted Pauline Kasper of Sid’s Flower Shop.

Dood’s Jewelry is a family-owned and operated shop at 342 W. Main St. in Ionia where they sell new and used jewelry. They also repair existing pieces or fashion them into a new, unique, creative item. The store is also the site of Mom’s Mending, a tailoring and clothing alterations concern.

Mane Stage Salon & Spa owner Ashley Shattuck with employee Erin Visser at the Ionia business. — DN Photo | Tim McAllister

“It is important to shop local during the holidays because that’s the best way to keep our economy circulating,” explained Sabrina Dood, head of sales and social media at Dood’s. “If you spend money locally, it will circle right back to you locally, especially if you work locally. It’s just the circle of life, ‘hakuna matata’ and that kind of thing.”

Mane Stage Salon & Spa at 309 W. Main St. in Ionia is offering personalized gift sets that include products specific to the recipient’s hair type and preferences. They also have gift cards for their services, which include massage therapy, nail treatments and cutting, coloring and styling hair.

“Small businesses are the backbone of a stronger community, so I feel that it is important to support them,” said Ashley Shattuck, owner of Mane Stage. “Right now, everybody is feeling the effects of raising prices, so now is the time to unite.”

Hansen said today’s Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for residents to discover what’s available in their own backyard.

“Right here in Ionia are local businesses with new products, new services and great gift items that you can purchase with convenience and hometown service,” she said. “We hear it all the time: Dollars spent locally stay local. Beyond that, when you support a local business, you are supporting a neighbor, their family and their dreams. You are contributing to building a vibrant climate for our businesses and residents to thrive in. You may even make new friends along the way.

“Each of these has a place in our lives, but as the world continues to shift toward online shopping, it becomes more essential to make a concentrated effort to support local businesses,” she noted. “We can each make a difference during the holiday season, perhaps by changing one simple habit in our daily lives or making the choice to allocate a portion of our budget to a local business.”

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