Buy local. Support local independent businesses. We hear it all the time, but it is more important now than ever. Even big-box solutions that we have grown used to for one-stop convenience are struggling because of online shopping.
Is that where our values are? Online? Convenience? What does that do for our sense of community?
I work in a neighborhood where people know my name. St. Anthony Park is a small community touching both St. Paul and Minneapolis that has been around since the late 1800s. People move to neighborhoods like this because it is walkable and you can get your basic necessities, plus frills, nearby. Retail, groceries, service businesses, and dining in a few blocks. Not a big box among them!
The community likes it that way. However, my guess is that many of us still get in our cars and drive a few miles — spending gas and time in traffic — for the “convenience” of saving a few bucks at a big box store.
It is local businesses that create neighborhood jobs. Local owners support local schools and nonprofits with donations. Some of them diversify and create new businesses, or other investments in nearby blocks. Local independent businesses help to keep our personal real estate taxes in check.
The bank where I work runs a coffee bar; it donates at least $500 each month directly to local youth, schools, daycares, and other groups. A local owner developed a property into 25 units of multi-family housing, which increased the property tax base.
I grew up in the small town of Wadena. Local business is what it was all about. Everything was centered in a few blocks. My first job was at the local Red Owl grocery store. I got to know every business owner. All my friends worked somewhere “downtown” after school. We all shopped the local stores.
I am fortunate to have that same sense of community where I work now. That is why I do everything I can, personally and professionally, to invest my money right here, right now.
— Terri Banaszewski
Terri Banaszewski is Vice President of Business Development at Sunrise Banks, responsible for growing business, retail, and residential mortgage portfolios through business development activities, involvement in community events, and outreach. She serves on many boards including St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, and volunteers at WomenVenture.
When I pick up vitamins and prescriptions at St. Paul Corner Drug instead of CVS, I know that my pharmacist not only gives me the information I need about my medications and vitamins, but personally supports the local community.
When I grab my morning coffee at Amore Coffee instead of Starbucks on my way to work, I know manager Tara and owner Nancy roast their coffee beans in-house and purchase their food products and supplies from local vendors.
When I recycle my old electronics with Tech Dump, I know I’ve helped offer employment to those that need it most while reducing my impact on the environment. When I enjoy a meal with my family at Stout’s Pub, I know the waitstaff will put their well-earned tip money back into our local economy.
Local businesses are personally and professionally invested in the neighborhoods they serve, in their employees, and in customers who spend their local dollars with them.
In so many ways, independent businesses can do what larger corporations can’t. They give you personalized service and unique products that are often sourced locally and are thoughtfully selected specifically for our local needs.
I see this firsthand in my professional life. I know those local business owners, and they know me.
Sure, Amazon is easy — and sometimes a valid choice for what I’m purchasing — but the care, knowledge, expertise, and enthusiasm that is found at local, independent businesses is undeniable. Isn’t that what it’s all about? We all do better when we all do better?
What sets independent businesses apart is the personal investment of time and energy, caring about what is important, the willingness to contribute, and the ability to make things happen locally.
As a consumer, you have the freedom to choose where and how you spend your money. Investing it locally will have an impact well beyond the dollar itself.
— Julie Novak
Julie Novak has worked in banking for 25 years. She is happy to work as Vice President of Commercial Lending for BankCherokee, a local community bank that serves the needs of local clients and neghborhoods. She serves on Keystone Community Service board, MetroIBA, and several local non-profit boards and committees.