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Why should you shop local? Local business owners, customers talk Small Business Saturday
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A customer at Parson's Gifts checks out items in the store's Christmas Shop on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

First, there was only Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which meant the unofficial start to holiday shopping. Then came Cyber Monday, a tech-based counterpart for online deals.

But rather than the mad dash of dealing with big-box stores or the impersonal nature of shopping online, an increasing number of local businesses are wanting to see customers come out for Small Business Saturday.

“Shopping local is very important for many different reasons,” said Mark Thompson, a volunteer for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Advancement Resources and owner of Absolute Pool and Spa Care. “For one, the people that most likely own these businesses, they’re your neighbors, they’re your friends, they’re people within this community that are donating a lot of their own time and money to support the county.”

Since 2010, there has been a push to spend the first Saturday after Thanksgiving supporting local businesses.

“That is near and dear to our heart – this Saturday – because we just love the fact that people come out and support their local, independently-owned family businesses. We love that there is a day to recognize us,” said Cris Willis, owner of Parsons Gifts, who said the store will be among those with special prices on Saturday.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are about a million small businesses in the state employing about 1.6 million Georgians, or 43.2 percent of employees in the state.

“When you go to some of these smaller stores or some of these small businesses, they will tend to have things in their store that fit the community,” Thompson said. “Not so with big brands. They buy in bulk and that’s what you get.”

For many, the support of local businesses means keeping money, including tax revenue, in the community rather than spending out of town.

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Customers peruse the No Longer Bound Furniture store on Friday, No. 16, 2018. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

“I am a huge proponent of local businesses,” said Stephanie Stone with No Longer Bound Furniture. “I shop with people who have their own businesses whenever I can. We need to support our local economy whenever we can.”

Kim Gehrhardt, who said she is a frequent customer of Parson’s, said she gets better service at small businesses – such as free samples and employees that can take more time with customers – than she does at chains or shopping online.

“The bigger stores don’t have that,” she said. “They’re rushing you in and rushing you out, and I don’t feel that way here.”

For other customers, the community feeling keeps them coming back.

“Our community has rallied around us so much because we are family and because we’re not a chain or anything like that, which I think is far and few between in a lot of places,” said Karen Smith, owner of Marie’s Italian Deli. “I think that’s why business has been really wonderful, and our customers are fantastic.”

When asked what her restaurant offered that customers couldn’t find at chain stores, Smith said “love” and “hugs.”

“We hug everybody,” she said. “[They] come in for a hug and some warm soup and some good sauce and a nice slice of pizza. I think people love that.”

Apparently, customers are a fan also.

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Karen Smith (left), the owner of Marie's Italian Deli on Atlanta Road, talks with customers. - photo by Bradley Wiseman

At a table in the restaurant sat frequent customers Osby Borchardt, Don Hartsfield and Ed Everett, who said they normally stop by the restaurant at least a couple times a week.

“It’s a family-owned business and they do a great job,” said Hartsfield. “What brings me back is the consistent food, and the people are so friendly,”

For other companies, a business can be a way of supporting something bigger.

For example, NLB Furniture – which is tied to the No Longer Bound recovery program for men – sells furniture made by clients in the program. Those funds then go back into the program.

“Ours is particularly unique because it feeds back into a nonprofit,” Stone said. “So, anything people purchase through NLB Furniture feeds back into the No Longer Bound mission, and therefore, helps save guys and helps save a life.”

Stone said once clients complete the program, they have a skill they can use.

“The furniture industry is one of the most successful industries, and we’re super proud of what our guys produce,” she said. “It is super high-quality, heirloom furniture. I’m a little biased, but it’s absolutely beautiful.”