A couple weeks ago, I was interviewing Cameo Waters, Jonesborough Tourism and Main Street Director, for a story that appeared in our Home for the Holidays section.
We were discussing the affect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on holiday events this year, and during that discussion, she mentioned a simple joy she rediscovered when local businesses started opening back up this past spring. Starting in mid-March, the pandemic hit home in a major way as schools and businesses classified as non-essential were forced to close in an effort to flatten the curve and slow the spread of coronavirus.
Unfortunately, that forced many small businesses to close their doors for weeks before finally being allowed to reopen. When businesses started to open back up, Waters said she remembered the joy she felt when she was finally able to return to the Corner Cup on Jonesborough’s Main Street.
Waters recalled that she wasn’t even able to sit down inside the shop on her first visit, but the sense of normalcy that came along with being able to order a cup of coffee, see familiar faces and purchase a new coffee mug made by a local artist was enough to leave her awash with joy.
At first, she said she felt silly. It was just a cup of coffee.
But many of us who have lived through this pandemic realize it was more than just a cup of coffee. Before this all started, it was easy to take local businesses for granted. Now more of us are aware of just how lucky we are to have so many locally owned businesses that serve as the backbones of the communities we live in.
There is plenty of evidence to back up how vital these businesses are to our communities. In the state of Tennessee, our county and municipal coffers are filled primarily through sales tax and property tax revenue, and small, locally owned businesses generate more tax revenue per sales dollar than businesses that aren’t locally owned.
What’s more, local business owners provide 350 percent more support to our local non-profits than non-locally owned businesses provide. Local businesses are also more likely to do business with other local businesses, creating a strong web of support that keeps our communities well-funded and vibrant.
But as Waters pointed out, the positive impact of strong locally owned businesses goes beyond the fiscal benefits they provide. These businesses provide a personal touch, unique products and help strengthen the identity of our region. By supporting local small businesses, we’re actually supporting ourselves.
Small Business Saturday has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your part in supporting your neighbors who run businesses in our region. In order for these business owners to survive, the Shop Local movement can’t just be about one big shopping day after Thanksgiving – it must become a habit.
So let’s all look for some small ways to start supporting locally owned businesses on a regular basis. If you’re like Cameo, you missed them when they were closed for a short while this past spring.
Let’s do our part to ensure we never lose them permanently.