By Chelsea Meyer
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — The busiest spending day of the year is here, and holiday shoppers have plenty of choices in the Rockford area. But when you shop local, you’re making a personal investment in your neighborhood or community.
That’s part of the case Lauren V. Davis makes as she encourages you to spend some of your holiday budget at local businesses. Davis, the co-founder and president of Winnebago Buy Local, also reminds people to think of more than just local retail.
“You have an amazing assortment of retail to choose from in the Rockford, Illinois, northern Illinois area. But there’s so much more than that, ” she said in an interview with B103, a partner of the Rock River Current. “If your car needs a tune up this time of year, go to a local mechanic shop, if you’re looking for coffee to drink, Google coffee instead of Googling the main name you just know.”
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This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, an annual holiday to celebrate local entrepreneurs and encourage local shopping. There were roughly 51 million shoppers on Small Business Saturday across the country last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
“When you shop local your dollars go farther and you get more from it, and those dollars stay in our community a lot longer,” Mayor Tom McNamara said in an interview on This Week in the Stateline. “Try to buy your gifts locally, because you’re helping one of your friends, your neighbors, your fellow citizens.”
Small businesses generated 12.9 million new jobs over the past 25 years, which accounts for two out of every three jobs added to the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Shopping local not only supports the local economy, but you help shape your community’s unique character and personality.
“They definitely provide a more unique and interesting, sort of artistic atmosphere than what you would find in a box store,” said Kate Wirth, owner of Lucette, a holistic salon and boutique at 508 E. State St. in downtown.
Lucette has a wellness boutique that features handmade and ethically sourced self-care products and household items. Wirth vets each product sold in the store to make sure the company has ethical practices, and many of the products are from female- or minority-owned companies.
Wirth says it’s tough for small businesses to compete with the blowout deals big box chains offer, but she hopes people will shop local after their morning rush.
“We’re hoping that at least after they buy their TV or whatever they’re out to get, they’ll come shop small and try to focus as many of their dollars as they can back into the local community,” Wirth said. “So much more of your dollars goes back into the community when you shop locally.”
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Davis said that shopping local not only pays dividends in the local economy, but you’re helping support the dream of someone in you’re community.
“This is actually their dream, not just a local business,” Davis said. “So when you support a local business owner you’re actually supporting someone’s dream for their life, and, I don’t know, that just feels really good to me.
“And I know that it’s really special for me to go the extra step and Google a business outside of the frame of what I know and go support them.”
This article is by Chelsea Meyer with contributions by Kevin Haas. Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Haas can be reached at email@example.com.