Mom and Pops Keeping Our Local Economy Humming
By Cindi Alpert
On a recent visit to Northern New Jersey, I was pleased to see that in my hometown and surrounding counties, some things never change. The towns keep getting more populated, property taxes are through the roof, and yet mom and pop businesses are alive and well. I had not been back to that neck of the woods since my last high school reunion, but I couldn’t help but notice how many small businesses there are. It amazes me that such a beautiful, densely populated area with plenty of lakes and streams and gorgeous views of foothills and mountains has not been overrun by big box stores and chains.
Now that my husband and I are business owners ourselves, we really pay attention to where we dine and shop. Aside from the grocery store, it is rare to spot us shopping or dining at big chain stores and restaurants. We have made it a mission in a sense to try to patronize local businesses. As local owners of radio stations, we know all too well how tough it can be to compete amidst big corporate competition, especially in a tough economy. We are now going on our fourth year in business in East Tennessee and it is because of our customers, listeners, and advertisers, and we are so grateful for their support.
There are so many important reasons to support locally owned businesses. For one, when you shop local, you are not helping some CEO in another state or another country buy a third vacation home, but you may be helping a family afford dance lessons or college for a child. When you spend your dollars with local businesses, local business owners are more likely to recycle that money back into the community. Another point to be made is as our towns and cities become more homogenized, the communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character can have an economic advantage. In many cases, small businesses offer better wages and hours than large corporations. It should also be noted that entrepreneurship drives our economy and prosperity and allows for families to move out of low paying jobs and into the middle class. The reasons we should all support our local businesses are endless.
There is a reason I chose Knoxville as my home over New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, and some of the other places I have lived. I love it here. However, it seems every time I turn around I see another big chain or box store pop up while mom and pop businesses are going away one by one. It’s not that I’m against growth or convenience for that matter. I would just like to see Knoxville stay a little “scruffy.”
I remain optimistic though as I talk to many of our advertisers who are local business owners. The cloud seems to be lifting, and consumer confidence seems to be getting better. For long-term progress, a conscious change in our buying habits is necessary. We need to carefully plan for our future and encourage the values we want reflected in our communities. Each time we spend a dollar, we need to really think about our choices, not solely to benefit ourselves immediately, but for the future we want in our towns and cities.
My challenge to anyone who is reading this is to do MORE of this… shop the local farmers’ market once in a while, support a local band, go to a local salon when you need your hair done, shop a local boutique for a unique gift, dine at a locally owned restaurant instead of a chain, and, of course, while you are doing all these things, be sure to tune in to your local radio station, 106.1 The River.