– 5/13/2020
Homegrown small businesses define who we are as a county

By Michelle Rotellini guest columnist May 10, 2020

Smaller businesses define what makes our community unique and special. You can’t go just anywhere and find the same boutiques, specialty stores and smaller format restaurants and breweries that you find here in Raleigh County. Our entrepreneurs have woven their creativity not only into the fabric of who they are, but into the fabric of who we are.

A pharmacy with locations across the country will reflect the same values, wherever it is located. Local pharmacies, in contrast, supplement their stock of pharmaceuticals with anything from regional team sports wear to handmade jewelry and gift items, which more personally reflects the culture of our area.

These businesses keep money close to home to support our schools, neighborhoods and important community organizations. When you spend money at an independently operated store, that money goes to pay a worker in your neighborhood, who, in turn, is likely to spend money at another local business. The more that independent businesses support each other, the greater their capacity to create a thriving local business community.

Independent businesses also create new jobs. These jobs often provide high levels of job satisfaction because it’s easier to take pride in your work and feel that your contributions make a real difference when you have a direct relationship with your owner.

Before social restrictions and stay-at-home orders, many of us might have taken our small, independent businesses for granted. Rushing to get kids off to day care and school in the early hours of the morning and putting in a long day at our workplace resulted in choosing what was convenient and cheap when it came to food, clothing, services and essentials. Life was stressful and there was never enough time to go out of our way to a specialty business.

If we could go back to pre-COVID-19 days, knowing what we know now, I think we would be different kinds of consumers. Having watched all of our favorite small businesses, salons and medical offices close for over six weeks has been an eye-opener. Being left without these distinct businesses has made us lose our identity in a sense. We miss the products and services, of course, but we also miss the personalities of the owners and the relationships we have with them.

Many of the businesses I’ve spoken to say that being forced to close during the pandemic has been like a double gut punch. They all understand the importance of doing so for our community’s health, but that doesn’t change the financial reality. Profit margins were already thin for many independent businesses. They relied on the support of their regular patrons to stay in business.

We can do our part to help our small business community during these hard times. We should offer mutual support to one another as business owners, leaders of organizations, employers and employees. If a local business is struggling, support that entity by sharing their creative efforts for reopening. Working together, we can generate a great amount of energy and support for one another.

Shop locally. If you can find a product or service you need here in our community, then purchase it here. If you are looking for a fabulous gift, visit a local boutique or gift shop. Not venturing out just yet? Then shop online, locally. Most businesses of all types are offering curbside pickup to stay afloat. Use independent health food stores and pharmacies – they need your support. We have some of the very best doctors and clinicians in the world living and practicing right here in southern West Virginia – take advantage of this local advantage. Patronize our independently owned restaurants and breweries.

If we don’t support these businesses, we will find ourselves complaining about not having “cool” places to shop and eat after COVID-19. We will find ourselves traveling out of town for doctor visits. When entrepreneurs take a risk and open an independent business, they do so believing they will be supported by the community. Show them we’ve got their backs. As we all continue to weather this storm, we must work together to restore and revive commerce within our community. Supporting one another and supporting local business is imperative to sustaining our community and should be a part of our new normal.

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