This post is from staff writer Sarah Gilbert.
I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family near the Oregon coast this past weekend, and spent nearly the whole day Saturday in blissful cooking mode. It was lovely, but it’s a remote area where the only nearby business is a gas station/convenience store on a highway between Portland and the coast. If one should need a quick shopping trip, the choices, to put it mildly, are limited.
I came back to my urban neighborhood — it’s one of those “up-and-coming” neighborhoods that is only very, very slowly coming up — on Tuesday, and spent the afternoon running errands on my bike. Within a couple of hours, I stopped at five businesses:
- The bank where the tellers know me so well they get out the basket of lollipops for my boys when we open the door.
- A neighborhood farmer’s market, where my favorite bagel-maker told me he was following me on Instagram — and gave me a great deal on bagels.
- A small neighborhood post office, where the clerk forgave my entrance a minute past five, and sent my package to my husband in Kuwait.
- The buying club where I get much of my groceries, where the amazingly energetic owner and I chatted about the change in seasons as seen through local produce availability.
- The grocery co-op that carries everything from bulk nutritional yeast at the best price in town, to more different varieties of locally-made (and delicious!) ice cream, beer and bread than I would have ever thought possible a decade ago.
Yesterday, I skipped the long lines at the grocery stores, and only walked down to the corner spice shop. Yes: there is a spice shop on my corner, where an employee from a great, recently-closed local business called “Limbo” (fresh produce, herbs, spices, teas, and such) went out on a considerable limb to start his own business. He sells my favorite local honey and coffee beans, plus just about every spice, herb and tea you can imagine. There’s nothing like spending your money at a business where the owner thanks you every time you spend money there — and truly seems grateful, just because you open the door.
The local spice shop
As several of my good friends have opened businesses in the last few years, and I myself have experience as one of the first few hires at three different start-up companies, I know how stressful and risky and how much work it is to start and run a small business.
I’ve watched as the business owners on the corner with the spice shop, one by one by one, have leased and built out their baby retail outlets. I’m not just interested because it helps my property value (I think the Starbucks on another corner probably had the biggest impact, to be honest), but because it makes life so much easier for me. Being able to run down to the corner for a bag of coffee beans or a refill of cinnamon really changes my life, as a military wife; with my husband in Kuwait, as he has been for most of the past year-and-a-half, it’s a major ordeal to get three little boys out of the door, let alone halfway across town to buy these little necessities. It’s a relief if those items are now sold a few doors away — I feel it’s safe to leave my oldest in charge of his brothers if I don’t even have to cross a street.
I honor the hard work and financial risk taken by small business owners, and am willing to pay a little more or make impulse purchases, even, if that means the stores and cafes will be around for the long haul. As the Saturday after Thanksgiving is, now, being celebrated as “Small Business Saturday” — it’s top of mind and near to my heart. If I had a wish for the small business owners in my neighborhood and yours, it would be that their neighbors would show their appreciation for their dedication, passion and scary risk-taking to shop with them instead of larger companies. It’s good for you, too, through convenience, travel costs and home value; and, I’d argue, for the health of your community and your long-term well-being.