It shouldn’t be news to anyone that giant retail chains have been threatening small businesses for ages. The more our city expands, the more big businesses move in. These days, there’s a new, even bigger potential threat in town. Online superstore Amazon has its eyes set on the 904, and it’s easy to see the appeal of clicking a few buttons and having items arrive at your doorstep in just a day … but what’s the real cost of that convenience?
With every click, you’re potentially hurting the people who live here and make and sell goods here. With every dollar you spend at a place like Amazon or Walmart, you’re taking money away from potential local businesses. To put that in perspective, consider that for every $100 you spend at a small local business, about $68 will stay right here in the community.
One of the biggest reasons to shop local is to support your neighbors. Deanna Gartenbush, along with her husband Dustin, owns Video Game Rescue, a local video game store and arcade. She values a good customer experience and knows many of her customers very well. Of local business owners, she said, “We truly care about customers, we’re invested in the community. We are moms and dads, community leaders, teachers and event planners. We are the ones who will fight hardest for positive growth in our community and be on the frontlines whenever our fellow neighbor needs us.”
Small businesses also have a lot more knowledge about their products than anyone at your typical big-box store. The opportunity to talk to someone who is really passionate and knowledgable about what they are selling is totally worth the extra time or effort it takes to make your way to a local shop as opposed to ordering online.
Liz Grebe, manager of the Riverside Arts Market, feels strongly about shopping local. “Shopping online is convenient, but there’s no interaction there. When supporting the local markets or small businesses, there’s an opportunity to learn about the product or the maker. I think that is one of many reasons people support local. It’s knowing where your product came from and how much love and passion went into creating it.”
Every Saturday, around 100 vendors set up at the Riverside Arts Market, offering a wide range of unique, locally produced items. Here, you can buy anything from handmade jewelry to locally grown vegetables. You’ll never see these kinds of things on Amazon or at Target. It’s because of this that Liz is hopeful about the future of small local businesses in Jacksonville. “People don’t want cookie-cutter products. They want to know where their product is coming from and they want to support passionate people. People are looking for more genuine and unique experiences.”
So what can you do? Get off your butt and go shop. “In a time where Amazon Prime gives instant gratification, it is important for Jacksonville citizens to realize that a little further drive, a couple extra days or dollars to get an item they really want, makes a huge difference to a small business,” Deanna said.
Liz offered up this challenge to everyone, “Take $5 a week and spend it locally. If 2,000 customers diverted $5 from their current non-local weekly spending, we’d be pumping $10,000 a week into our local economy.”
Don’t forget to tell your friends about your experience. Small businesses depend on good online reviews and word-of-mouth advertising. Eat, drink and shop local. You’ll have a better experience and your neighbors will thank you.