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Small Business Big Charm

Living in an old colonial town can be a very lovely thing. There’s lots of history and plenty of charm. However, I’m afraid we take it for granted sometimes.

The other night we had a Christmas tree lighting in our town. The merchants stayed open late and offered all kinds of special activities for their visitors.

One of the stores had a cookie decorating project which of course appealed to my girls. So, off we went. On the way, I saw an old bookstore that I had never visited before.

Through the window I could see people enjoying glasses of wine while shopping which of course made it mandatory that I check it out. Books and wine. A great combination.

I found a first edition Practical Cooking that I leafed through while sipping my wine. A fire was roaring away in the fireplace and it was just about the coziest shop on the planet.

After a few minutes, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Michael. He had slipped into the shop while I was browsing through the old cookbooks.

He had found a treasure trove of old lithographs that captured his attention.

And then he found a collection of vintage postcards of our town. He sat by the fire a good long time leafing through the pages of cards. I lost interest in my cookbook and stood there for awhile watching him.

It’s funny how we become numb to our surroundings. I mean, I’ve lived here for over twenty years and I’m just now discovering this very cool shop?

It makes me wonder what else I’m missing.

I rather liked chatting with the bookstore owner. He’s owned that shop for 32 years! He knew a lot about our town and was more than happy to answer questions about our town’s history. It was a fascinating conversation and it felt good to be there. Warm and cozy and that’s not the wine talking!

You could tell that the owner really cared about his customers. Such a difference from shopping at the big box stores.

Shopping local is a very good thing. And while it’s not always practical to do so, I endeavor to  visit some of the smaller shops in my town in the new year.

How about you? Do you make it a point to shop local? Do you have any local favorites?

Comments

  1. Sadly, many of the local shops that had been around for decades have closed down this year. I don’t have enough fingers to count of the number of them that have shut their doors forever in 2012. :-(

    • That is a sad thing. Our town has that issue as well. Some stores have had some luck while others have shuttered up pretty quickly. It’s the rare gem that stays around for years anymore.

  2. Good morning Melanie! Yes, I try to support my local shops and restaurants when practical. They do have more charm and they are invested in the local community more so than the chains. I love that pic of Lincoln!

  3. I agree, small shop owners are invested in their store and customers. I have done a lot of shopping for my boys at Hanson Hobby in Hanson, MA. They are very knowledgeable about all their merchandise and happy for your business.

    My family moans when I go into a bookstore, it may be hours before I resurface.

  4. Patricia N. says:

    My town in SE Mass has some wonderful shops. I particularly like the antique shops, and the owner of one in particular is so knowledgeable about the findings in his shop. It is so much fun to just visit from time to time and listen to him explain what some of the items are and what they were used for.
    I used to shop mostly locally when we first moved here 33 years ago, but so many of the shops closed when the malls began opening in our area. We used to have a store called The Boston Store. You could find any pair of Wrangler jeans you wanted, and I mean ANY SIZE AND STYLE AT ALL!!! I used to go there every year and buy Wranglers for my husband and I always knew they would have his size. There was also a womens’ store called Shirlee where you could always find the perfect dress for a concert, wedding, fancy ball; you name it. I really miss that place. Try to find something like that at a mall! Most of the stores at the malls cater to a much younger crowd now and I wouldn’t be caught dead in some of those clothes. (Note to self: Tell my husband that before I die. LOL)
    I know that the malls are so convenient, but it’s fun to walk around a town and stop in the local stores. My kids used to love shopping downtown with me. You always saw people that you knew and you were assured of getting top quality. I miss that.

    • That sense of community has certainly changed now that we don’t shop downtown anymore. Sure, we see people at the malls, but it isn’t quite the same as strolling down the street. Call me old fashioned, but I like the idea of shopping and being social too! And I agree with you about the quality. That’s changed too and not for the better!

  5. I live in a small town 30 miles from the nearest cluster of big box hell. So I shop local a lot. Most of the time I can find what I need in my small town at a local merchant. It may be priced a little higher, but when you factor in gas at $3.50 per gallon I actually get it cheaper! These same merchants are the ones that sponsor activities at school, youth sports teams, etc so I think shopping local is the right thing to do. Besides I despise Walmart and what it does to my blood pressure!!! :)

    • Yes, it is a good thing to support the local businesses that give to the schools and community groups. When my kids were in organized sports, we made it a point to use the sponsor’s services. It made us feel good to return the favor. I feel the same way you do about the big box stores. I shop there when I need to, but they aren’t my favorite.

  6. While there are not many shops left in my small town, we do have local restaurants that my book club visits once a month. We choose to patronize the local business owners instead of the chains.

  7. Cassie Sue says:

    Hubby and I on Fridays (when we both don’t work) go on “dates” while the kids are at school and we try local restaurants, and try to visit local shops. We have found some winners in both departments. I love the idea of helping out people in my community with my purchases, and like you said, there are some really fun places out there.

  8. I don’t really “shop” locally, because the prices are way to high and my wallet is way to empty. BUT we do eat locally. If I can eat at a local restaurant I will take it over a chain anyday!

    • Yup, the local restaurants are usually my favorite too. With all of the wonderful choices you have down in your neck of the woods, you are all set!

  9. I go to Mary Carter Paint Store. There are three shops with doors between, making them one store. The doors to the two side stores are no longer open. I have to go into the center door. I remember when all three doors were open. I can buy my shoes and Lodge cast iron in the same section of the shop. In the middle section I have bought canning jars, a pressure cooker, duct tape, a pecan picker, a heavy metal can crusher, light bulbs, and assorted other items. In the final section, I have had pictures framed, but I can buy a gun, fishing tackle, or a Radio Flyer wagon in any size or style. Yes, I love my local stores.

  10. I’m actually pretty lucky that I work in a professional position for an independent retail store. We have two locations and both of them are surrounded by other small businesses, family-owned businesses, and market-type places. It’s completely changed my life! I love it so much that I’ve become that person who goes a half hour out of her way to spend $2 more on an item because it came from a woman-owned small business. I hope you continue to frequent the small shops! They’re usually better at customer service and unique items!

    • Yes! They are much better when it comes to customer service. That’s a real issue with the larger stores. They don’t seem to care about customer service these days.

  11. Thank you for this post. We have a family business and I was just telling my mother how depressing everything is getting, I fear all the small shops are a dying breed. The new shop local focus is good, but I don’t think (at least in my town) the message is really being heard. Online shopping is rampant and sometimes small merchants just can’t compete with those prices. Sometimes they are selling a product for less than I can purchase it for wholesale, and with free shipping!!! I don’t understand that at all, we have even called our vendors and they are not even getting special pricing so I’m very confused about why it’s even worth it for them to sell a product at a loss with free shipping.

    It’s really sad, I think that maybe people will realize the importance of shopping local too late. All of our small shops will be gone, our center of towns empty except for pizza and nail places. And who will buy the ads for the program books at school, donate items for the silent auctions, or sponser the sports teams? Small businesses do a lot for their towns, we support schools, churches, women’s groups and more!!! Years ago the town built a new playground and all of the stores “bought a brick” for the playground. I go there with my daughter now and look at the bricks and most of those stores are closed now. So sad. Sorry this got so long!!!

    • That is so heart breaking. I can understand how you feel. You are right. Local businesses are the back bone of our local economies. We can’t afford to not support them. I’m not sure what the answer is to help remedy the situation, but I will try to shop more local more often. I’d hate to see our downtown dissolve.

  12. I spent a lovely afternoon in my town visiting all the local mom and pop stores. My town had a “lamplight stroll” that lasted 2 days, everyone got a passport and when you visited the store they stamped it. It was so neat to see all the wonderful little stores that I had never been in. If the passport was stamped by all the stores, there was a prize to be won.

    • That sounds like a very pleasant evening. We would have taken in more shops that night had it not been raining. It’s hard to shop in the rain, lol.

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