Saturday, December 19, 2015

Small Business Owners...They Need Us Too

Nothing better than a stroll on Main Street
Last night, one full week before Christmas, I waited in front of the local mall for traffic to move. Traffic light, after light, I was inching my way up the road mumbling words that didn't really fit with the Christmas Carols playing on the radio.

And the frustration was this, I wasn't even going to the mall. I just needed to get passed it to get to my destination...a small town main street dressed in its holiday best.

Haddonfield, New Jersey, similar, I'm sure, to so many great old towns, has a wonderful main street that this time of year, shimmers with white lights, red and gold ribbons, and frequent greenery in every store. On each Friday night between Thanksgiving and Christmas, carolers are found on every corner and horse drawn carriages carry happy shoppers up and down the street under red and green blankets. Norman Rockwell would be proud.

Not a snow flake in sight but the kids were singing "Jingle Bells"
I had accompanied a friend who was on a mission. She was a little behind in her shopping and determined to get it done! I, on the other hand, was just looking for a few stocking stuffers and was totally enjoying ambling around the festively decorated shops. And, as it so often the case with shopping in small, independent stores, I found things I never would have found in the mall!

Shop owners and staff were all dressed in holiday sweaters or antlers (or both) willing to help with suggestions and selections. Maybe this impressed me because earlier in the day I was in a large department store and couldn't even find sales help at the registers! Actually, it was lovely talking to store owners who were just so glad you stopped in! I actually had a sales clerk who asked me to describe who I was shopping for, what my budget was, and then pointed me to the perfect find! I was thrilled walking out with my little bag in hand!

Coming back to this store when I'm shopping for myself!
On the East Coast, this December has been the warmest on record. Most days a winter coat is not even needed. As I spoke to a local shop owner, she explained how this has been a blessing. "The holiday season can make up to one-third and sometimes two thirds of our annual budget. A cold, or snowy month can be a disaster."

This year, however, main street shoppers are finding it very comfortable to meander and browse. Mother nature has been merciful to those with so much at stake.
Local church choir singing holiday favorites

Small business owners are also grateful to townships who roll out holiday carpets to attract shoppers. "This time of year is truly a make or break deal for most of us, " she continued, "for the owners of small shops, it can decide whether or not you will make it into the new year."  That is a difficult reality.

Plus, a little fact checking into the plight of small business owners, found that houses surrounding prosperous town centers have values that increase annually. That is certainly the case in this small town where large Victorian and stately homes are pricey pieces of real estate. The taxes paid by businesses that populate small towns are essential to local economies. Take a look at a down town main street that has closed shops and boarded up windows and you will find the surrounding neighborhood in despair.

My favorite shop anytime of year!
It is why towns like Haddonfield, neighboring Collingswood and so many townships across the nation, work so hard at the holiday season to attract those longing for a time when Christmas meant noses pressed against store windows, carolers on street corners and grateful shop owners so willing to help.

It still exist. You just have to make a promise to pass the mall and find it. There are six days left until Christmas day. Plenty of time to support our local small business owners. Plenty of time to support our community which depends on all of us for its' survival. One purchase from each of us could make all the difference.

Food Court? Not when small town restaurants look like this in December!

Photos by Jo Ann Phelps and GoogleImages

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