Local business merits support

Nov. 28, 2013 @ 10:48 PM

High Strung, a West Durham shop that sells and repairs stringed instruments, wasn’t part of the retailing-on-Thanksgiving boom Thursday. And it won’t be open today.

But then it will happily open for Small Business Saturday and join in local-business alliance Sustain-A-Bull’s “Shop Independent Durham” post-Black Friday week.

“I think our customer base is perfectly happy to come in on Saturday,” floor manager Lila Hemsell told The Herald-Sun’s Laura Oleniacz. “We are dependent on having a strong holiday sales season; “We are dependent on having a strong holiday sales season; we’re always excited to have people come in looking for gifts in early November.”

She added, however, that “being a family-oriented, community-oriented store, and practicing that, means letting our staff members spend time with their families.”

We suspect that sentiment is more prevalent than suggested by the massive public attention toward Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day shopping frenzies. On the eve of Small Business Saturday, it is a good time to pay heartfelt homage to our locally owned and community-engaged businesses.

Don’t get us wrong. We fully understand the attraction of wide selections and cutthroat-competition-driven deals at national retailers.  Durham has become home to nearly the full range of major national department stores, specialty shops and big-box retailers. It is a key part of what makes this city attractive to many residents. And we’d be disingenuous if we didn’t acknowledge the historic role national retailers have played in underpinning print and broadcast media through substantial advertising spending.

But this community – any community – benefits disproportionately from the health and prosperity of its local businesses. Small-business-ownership is a tough way to make a living, and shopping at our local retailers strengthens them and in turn strengthens the community.

Sustain-A-Bull, affiliated with the American Independent Business Alliance, has worked hard in recent years to nurture cooperation and joint marketing by local businesses. The group, according to its website, “promotes and supports locally owned, independent businesses in our community based on the belief that independent businesses are vital to Durham’s economy, culture, and environment.”

Like other independent business alliances, it “works to build vital local economies based on independent, locally owned businesses and help local entrepreneurs compete successfully against chains, online competitors and others. Sustain-a-Bull unites locally owned independent businesses, citizens, and community organizations to achieve this goal.”

Among the benefits the national alliance cite are that “independent businesses return 3 times more money to your local economy than one spent at a chain….independent businesses help give your community its distinct personality….more efficient land use and more central locations mean local businesses put less demands on our roads, sewers and safety services.”

Durham has a wealth of local retailers, ranging from funky to fancy. Some are in their infancy; some have been around for a century or more.  Many of their proprietors provide some of the most committed and dynamic civic, business and political leadership in the community.

Wouldn’t “Shop Independent Durham” week be good time to give our local businesses a visit? They’ll be happy to serve you.