Supporting small business, it’s personal.

Here we are in 2020, a time when we can order our groceries online with a click and have them delivered in an hour.

The convenience of pressing the “check out” button on a big box stores’ online platform seems to make our lives easier.

However, this quick transaction has an underlying negative, a loss of identity in our hometowns.

If you take a ride through western Chester County, you’ll pass through the main streets of Coatesville, Parkesburg, Atglen, Honey Brook and many more idyllic small towns; each one toting their own identity. These places are the home to small businesses that create a unique sense of community. Local businesses are the pulse of our neighborhoods and ensure we have a healthy micro economy that recycles continuously through our region.

This year, November 28th marks Small Business Saturday. Taking the extra time to shop local rather than with a large chain will ultimately have a lasting impact on where you live by increasing prosperity, entrepreneurism, connectivity and the quality of life in the community. How does shopping small influence all of those positives? Well it’s personal.

Your local businesses grow and adapt their products and services to meet the communities’ specific needs. This additional attention to detail is not only appealing to residents but also acts as an attraction to outside visitors. A unique small-feel angle can also ignite entrepreneurial competition, inspiring other residents to open businesses that fill cross-selling opportunities. For example, say a retailer has drummed up an increase of foot traffic to the area thanks to their quirky new store. Another resident recognizes that gap and opens an eatery next door. They’re now adding a second stop, another service for the shopper and ultimately extending the commerce in the area.

Investing in our community means engaging in our community. This heightened engagement may take an extra mile down the road, but that extra step provides an experience, an intimate person to person contact. Rachel Prescott Roberts of the American Mushroom Institute in Chester County explains, “To buy local you have to plan differently on how you shop. I find that when I don’t plan, it’s easy to default to chains, but we have to make a different plan, we have to commit to buying locally.”

Committing to buying locally is a trend for many businesses in western Chester County. Local businesses often patronize other local businesses, setting a precedent in developing a controlled supply chain. This unity keeps money circulating in our community longer, resulting in more of our neighbors utilizing and benefitting from that same dollar. As an individual resident of the region, it is now our turn to step up and join small businesses in this union.

Eric Yost, owner of Suburban Brewing Company in Honey Brook, takes great pride in sourcing his inventory from other local businesses. He says it isn’t always easy but the brewery hosts a farm to table menu committed to purchasing its ingredients from local Farms. “If you do it right, it’s full circle. Drink our beer or eat from our menu and your supporting not only our business, employees and their families but also the farmer that grows the grain. Then we’re taking those spent grains and giving them to the pig farmer for his feed.”

This neighborly supply chain is not just in our county’s agriculture sector. Local businesses in our region are balancing their books with a local accountant, printing their ads with a neighborhood printer and insuring their storefronts with the insurance agent around the corner. This recirculation is a force that filtrates through businesses to employees and right into our households.

When you shop small your hard-earned dollar passes to the business, to the employees and down through the supply chain but the buck doesn’t stop there. Your purchase ultimately becomes a community contribution. Every time a purchase is made at a local business, that business then pays out their share of taxes to municipal or city funds. These funds determine the health of local programs such as public services, infrastructure, schools, libraries, beautification efforts and more.

An added bonus is that generally Small businesses are more likely to donate and sponsor other local community organizations that are active in filling the needs of the neighborhood. These community partners turn around and inject that money back into our locality, once again it’s personal.

At this point in the conversation, you may often hear, “but doesn’t the big box retailer bring jobs”. Perhaps that is true for a time but to what cost? Locally owned businesses are linked to higher income growth and lower levels of poverty; they aren’t as quick to depress wages. These neighborhood enterprises take pride in the people because they are the people. Once a local business becomes successful and starts to grow, they will also bring jobs like a large retailer. Its important to acknowledge that locally owned businesses are held to a higher standard; they hold a share in the community and are tied personally to the civic engagement, social capital and well-being of that community.

How can you love local?

Rather than going straight to the convenience of that big chain online store, consider what local businesses you can contact for the same products. Then while your there, consider upcoming birthdays and holidays that may also require a purchase. Sometimes the prices are higher in locally owned stores, but acknowledge that those few extra dollars are an investment in your community.

Go the extra mile then share your experience. A trip to buy produce from the local farmer is not just a purchase of a product but a memory of a moment. Snap a photo of your moment and tag the farm on social media. Take it a step farther by rating and following them as well!

Contribute to charities and community foundations that support the community. This can be in the form of volunteerism, attending an event, donating or developing a partnership between your business and the organization. You can find a list of these organizations at chescowest.com/nonprofit-1

Foster a climate that encourages small businesses. Your quality time and passing along knowledge and expertise you may have, can build up others.

Take notice. What gaps of services or products are missing in your community, why isn’t a local business filling that gap? Encourage your local policymakers to craft laws and procedures that support and inspire local commerce.

Most Importantly let us all make a collective effort to shop small, not only on Small Business Saturday but as much as we can! We’re in this together and we determine what tomorrow will look like in our hometown.

Visit ChescoWest.com to discover local businesses in our region.

Visit chesco.org/1124/Find-Local-Farm-Products for the Ag Development Council Farm Guide.

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Copyright © 2020  Rachel M. Cathell 
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Wilmington, Delaware