STEUBENVILLE — Small Business Saturday putting the emphasis on shopping at locally-owned businesses is important for such places every year, but according to Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce President Tricia Maple-Damewood, “This year it’s way, way, way more important than it has ever been before.”
“Businesses have had to shut down or limit their capacity because of COVID,” she said as the chamber promoted the day with a booth set up outside of M&M Hardware Saturday. “We are always trying to educate people on the importance of local shopping, but this year, we’re pulling out all the stops and trying to hammer it home.”
Maple-Damewood and several others from chamber handed out out coffee, listings of chamber members that make good places to buy gifts and promoted the chamber’s buy local receipt contest, which gives entrants one entry for every $50 spent locally this holiday shopping season for a $250 cash drawing.
“Reception was really good. Everybody goes to M&M, people have been coming and going all day. It’s been really crowded,” Maple-Damewood said. “We’ve had a lot of fun and we will be continuing the message all the way through Christmas and into next year. I think it’s crucial. When we have stuff like (Saturday) going on, it might reach a few people that had never thought about it the way they should.
“(Shopping at small businesses) is not just a cool thing to do (on Small Business Saturday), it’s about supporting those businesses that support your little league teams and your charity event and your churches. You can’t not reciprocate that. And, this year, it could mean the difference between a small business making it to the other side of COVID or not.
“It might cost a little more or not be exactly the gift somebody wanted, but it’s going to mean a lot more this year if it came from a local business.”
She said the chamber website, www.jeffersoncountychamber.com, features a printable gift guide to let shoppers know what is available locally and said the chamber will be launching a new “shop where I live” website for locals to purchase gift cards and products from member businesses.
“Sometimes I think people don’t think there are a lots of things to buy for gifts locally and there are,” she said.
According to Maple-Damewood, it is easy for the average shopper to overlook the impact their business could have on small businesses.
“This is an example I was given: If you go get a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, you tip the barista, that person is saving tips to buy their daughter a dress for prom, then that dress makes it to a local dry cleaner, the dry cleaner donates to the little league team, then the little league team wins and celebrates by going to that shop,” she said. “It’s a cycle that some people don’t think about, but it’s really important.
“Some of these businesses, if their rent is $200 to $300 a month, if you bought gift cards there, you could be the difference in whether they can pay their rent or not.”
Maple-Damewood noted that one does not always have to go up Route 22 or down Route 7 to do their shopping.
“Another thing that people might not get it that it’s crucial that you don’t automatically have a mindset that you’re heading to Robinson, or heading to Wheeling,” she said. “If you can’t find what you want locally, the next best thing is shopping online because at least that still brings in tax dollars locally. The very best thing is to shop locally, the next-best thing is to shop online because taxes still come locally.”
She noted there are still ways to support local business when heading out of the area to shop.
“Everyone likes to go to Pittsburgh for the experience and that kind of stuff, you’re never going to stop that completely, but I just ask people to maybe shoot for half of their gifts being bought locally,” she said. “Another thing that is hugely important, if you are heading out of town, get your food here first, gas up your car here first, if you’re making a major purchase like a car, or tires, or kitchen cabinets or whatever it may be, try to make those purchases locally. It’s really important and it is the right thing to do.
“If you need a gift card for your church fundraiser or your kid’s little league team, you’re not driving to Robinson to ask those businesses, because they’re not going to help you — you go to local businesses. You have to return that support. That is how we can all do better.
“In times like these our community needs to support each other.”
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