By Grace Kuikman
I’ve been shopping at small neighborhood businesses all my life. When I was a kid, on Saturdays I’d tag along when my dad made the rounds to the butcher shop, the bakery and the grocery store. We bought our clothes and shoes on 95th Street, we went to restaurants on Western Avenue. When I asked to go out to the malls to shop the answer was always the same: Only if you can’t buy what you need in the neighborhood.
The names of the stores have changed, but the benefits of shopping where I live remain the same: Local businesses shape not just the local economy but the culture of our community.
According to a recent study, about $65 out of every $100 spent at a local small business stays in the community. Those dollars help to restock the shelves, pay wages and taxes, improve business properties and support other local businesses. Strong commercial areas strengthen their residential counterparts, helping to keep home values up.
When local entrepreneurs see a gap they try to fill it. They are creative, industrious, collaborative and open to new ideas. Their one-of-a-kind businesses not only serve shoppers, they help to define the unique nature of the Beverly/Morgan Park community. Businesses partner with organizations to sponsor our community’s signature events like BAPA’s Ridge Run, Home Tour and Bikes & Brews Festival, and the Beverly Area Arts Alliance’s Beverly Art Walk.
Local businesses are more inclined to buy locally sourced merchandise and materials, and to employ neighbors. They donate to neighborhood fundraisers, sports teams and community organizations.
Most of the owners of local businesses are our neighbors. They recognize us when we drop in at their shops, offices and restaurants. We feel comfortable asking them about their products and services, and trust that they will stand behind what they sell. If a local business doesn’t have what I’m looking for, it’s not unusual for the owner to check into whether they can get it for me. That’s the definition of customer service.
Success breeds success. When local businesses thrive, they contribute to the growth of commercial districts by attracting new businesses. There is no better advertisement for an investor than the busy shop next door.
It’s in our hands – literally – to support our local businesses.
Don’t go to the internet first when it’s time to shop. Those businesses are not investing in our community, creating first jobs for teens or adding to the neighborhood spirit. Yes, it’s convenient to have a box dropped off on your front porch, but it adds nothing to the holiday spirit.
Take my dad’s advice: When you need something, check to see whether someone in the neighborhood sells it. Beverly/Morgan Park covers a lot of territory, and it’s not uncommon for the people who live on one end of the neighborhood to forget about what’s available on the opposite end. I’m confident most people will be pleasantly surprised to discover how much they can buy that’s close to home.
Think outside the box. What do local businesses have that may suit the people you’re buying for better than the “routine” stuff that’s been going under the tree or gifted for other occasions? You may find yourself very inspired on a visit to a boutique, flower shop, bookstore, restaurant, salon or other local business.