President’s Message

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Creative Entrepreneurs, The Fabric of Our Community

Small businesses define our community. The boutiques, specialty stores, small format restaurants and breweries found here in Raleigh County are what make us unique and special. 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 daycare 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 support 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 our favorite small businesses, salons and medical offices close for over 6 weeks was eye opening. Left without our distinct businesses, our sense of identity was lost. We missed the products and services of course, but we also missed the personalities of the owners, the relationships we had – the fabric of our community was gone.

Our local business owners understood the importance of keeping our community safe. They continue to follow CDC and State health guidelines while adjusting operations as needed, staying flexible, trying new ideas and thinking creatively. But that doesn’t change the financial reality. For many independent businesses profit margins were already thin, they relied on the support entrepreneurs take a risk and open an of their regular patrons to stay in afloat.

Our community must do its part to help our small businesses during these unprecedented times. Offer mutual support to one other 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 pick-up 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 local 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.

We support our community through our mission which is to build a vibrant community through programs of advocacy, public awareness and policy development.  

We thank our members for supporting Chamber programs and activities that allow us to better serve the population they represent.   

Please feel free to contact the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce at any time. My door is always open.

Michelle Rotellini
President & CEO

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