What makes a town or city appealing to you? The architecture? The landscape? The climate? The people? The cuisine? I love traveling and I’ve given a lot of thought to why some places feel so attractive to me and others don’t. My favorite towns have all these ingredients plus another: they’re full of small businesses.
Strolling the winding streets of Madrid, Pearl Street in Boulder, Hawthorne in Portland, Le Plateau in Montreal, and the downtowns of virtually all cool cities and towns, you’ll pass locally owned flower shops, unique restaurants, art galleries, and, of course, spas like The Dragontree. 😉
You could blindfold me and teleport me to downtown Missoula, Northampton, San Francisco, Marblehead, or Port Townsend. I’d know immediately where I was (and I’d ask to stay for a while). Drop me in a sea of Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Best Buy and giant parking lots, and I could be anywhere (but nowhere I’d want to live). Any sense of home or connection is greatly diminished when a region’s commerce is dominated by giant chains.
Small businesses make towns special. They give a community character and make the patron feel connected to the proprietor. They’re also important avenues for other small businesses – like artists, hair stylists, bakers – to do their craft and get compensated well for it.
So if you want to help preserve the specialness of a place, if you want your downtown to stay cool and vibrant, patronize its small businesses! Let’s all make a deal to do all our holiday shopping at small businesses this year! It’s a gift not just to the recipient but also to the small business owner and employees and the community it resides in.