By Ginny and Ken Ryan, owners of Somers Custom Framing
Did you ever think, “Why should I shop local…what does it do for me?
With the volume of information and buying opportunities online it seems easier to click a button on your phone or computer than to drive into town to shop. With a million things to do, that’s one chore you can cross off your list. Or perhaps you drive a few towns over to the nearest BJ’s, Costco, or Kohl’s in an effort to save a couple of bucks. These options seem cheaper or more convenient. They appear better all around. But are they really better for you? Do we have a responsibility to ourselves and our overall community to shop locally when we can and patronize the small family owned businesses? I think we do.
Our decision on whether or not to shop locally can affect us in more ways than you might think. The success or lack of success of the small privately owned businesses in our community greatly impact our real estate values, town tax revenue, local fundraising efforts, employment opportunities for family and friends, and our overall feelings about the very place we live our lives.
We’ve all experienced the upset when a local business that we liked goes out of business. We lament seeing prime retail space sitting empty for years. We muse, “Wow, that space would great for…” The eyesore of the vacant space is unappealing and depressing. It detracts from the overall value and “pleasant feel” of the town, not to mention the obvious lost revenue of whatever successful business could be operating there. That’s salaries for local employees as well as tax revenue for the town.
In order to keep our town alive, active and relevant, we need to shop in our town. Our town stores are owned by our neighbors. Their children go to school and play sports with our children. It is these family-owned stores that help sell our real estate and keep the values high. Think about that. When realtors bring potential home buyers into our community, it is not just the house they are selling but the community as well – the schools, local shops, local restaurants, etc. A vibrant and bustling downtown with a variety of small shops and services plays a critical role in keeping your real estate values high.
A strong small business community is also crucial to local fundraising. It’s the small family owned businesses that support these efforts. At our store, Somers Custom Framing and Gift, we routinely get requests for donations from countless groups including schools, churches, synagogues, sports teams, civic groups, fire houses, health concerns, kids wanting to go to Cooperstown, you name it. Probably like other business owners, we unfortunately can’t satisfy every request, there are just too many. But we do what we can, and are happy to do it. Frankly, it’s good for us too. It strengthens our relationship with our customers and enables us to participate in the good things our community does. Amazon.com or Costco probably does not donate to your annual church fundraiser, or women’s golf outing. But the small business owners do and can do so only to the extent our businesses are successful.
What do you get from shopping local vs. online? Well, a lot! The biggest things are personalized service and accountability. We know our customers, many by name. We’re in NYC several times a year shopping for the latest fashion and gifts that we know our customers will love. Many times searching for specific items our customers want. How do we know what they want? We talk to them and actually listen to what they have to say. We’ve developed personal relationships with our customers. We want to make them happy, and do what we can to make that happen. When you come into our store we’ll offer you a free cup of coffee and a tour around the store. This personal interaction is not found online with a mouse and computer screen. And again, I don’t think you’ll get this from any of the big-box stores.
Like other small business owners, we do the work ourselves. Whether custom framing, printing, or creating a gift basket, we want it done right because our reputation is on the line. We take pride in our work, and will always stand behind the work we do. We offer a level of quality and control that is above what you get online or at bulk stores. Why? Because we are the craftsmen and artists creating your frames and restoring your photos… you know us and we know you. If it’s not done right, we’ll be held accountable. We know it and so do our customers.
So if you want our town to flourish, the store-front “For Rent” signs to disappear, home values to stay strong and your local fundraising efforts to be more successful, than refrain from clicking the mouse. Take a drive through town and stop in and see what your local stores have to offer. Become more than a click of a button and a PayPal link – be a person…a name people say hello to when you walk into your local shops. There is no better time to start than today. You’ll be glad you did.