Aitkin Age, November 21, 2012
There’s nothing small about the effect small businesses have on the community. That’s not just according to the owners of those businesses. There’s a whole “shop local” movement taking root across the state and throughout the country and experts on that movement agree what’s good for local business is good for local customers, the community and the economy.
Small Business Saturday, Nov. 24, comes two days after Thanksgiving. On “Black Friday,” Nov. 23, small town and neighborhood shop owners across the country concede business to big box stores with heavily promoted sales and ever-expanding hours. They make their push for sales the day after the day after Thanksgiving.
But Aitkin retailers make no such concession. Fish House Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year in Aitkin because the parade draws so many holiday shoppers to town.
“It is the biggest day of the year for us by far,” Jared Lundgren (who owns Giada’s in Aitkin with his wife, Beth) said about the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The clothing store has been in operation in downtown Aitkin for 2-1/2 years.
“The reason we carry so much inventory is that we hope people do shop locally. We try to carry something for everyone at prices that are competitive with what you’d find anywhere,” Lundgren said.
He said the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas accounts for about 30 percent of the year’s business at Giada’s. About 60 percent of the store’s business is done during the summer months. September, October and January through April are really tough months for as the Thanksgiving turkey cools, the holiday shopping season heats up the business, Lundgren said.
“For us, it’s one person at a time. It would make a huge difference if more people did their shopping locally,” Lundgren said.
Becki Jones has been running Gramma’s Pantry in downtown Aitkin for 30 years. She said December is her biggest month of the year due to all the gift-giving and food preparation that goes on in the lead-up to Christmas.
Jones moved from the Metro area to start her business and said, at the time, she didn’t realize what an impact shopping locally can have on a small community.
“Our area business owners are very generous … they give back to the community in a number of ways and a big box store located outside the community doesn’t do that,” Jones said, adding, “The impact of shopping locally is huge. It goes around the community so many times … it’s the way we can support each other.”
Fish House Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year at Bare’s Bootery in Aitkin, a day when owner Steve Bare said he sees a lot of shoppers from out-of-town.
“I’m getting more and more comments from people who say they’re making an effort to shop locally. It’s encouraging. They appreciate the individual customer service they get and everyone benefits … every dollar spent out of town is a loss to the local economy,” Bare said.
Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, agrees with the local business owners. Mitchell determined that, for every $100 spent locally, nearly $54 ends up back in a state’s economy – most spent in the county where the store was located. Of every $100 spent at a big box chain store, Mitchell estimates, all but about $14 flows out of the county and the state to corporate headquarters and far-flung suppliers.