Gifts That Keep Giving: Supporting Our Community’s Businesses This Holiday Season
shopping local helps small businesses, the economy, and even the environment
Rebecca Mennecke, photos by Andrea Paulseth
There’s something special about giving a gift that’s made right here in the Chippewa Valley. Whether it’s a candle that’s concocted by your next-door-neighbor or a bar of festive soap shaped like Santa Claus from a farm up the road, celebrating the holiday season means celebrating our lil’ community. And that starts by supporting local.
This year, disruptions in the national supply chain (including backlogs at ports on the East and West coasts, as well as a national shortage of truckers) lead to rising transportation costs, delays, and – to put it nicely – a risk that Santa Claus may not make it to all the houses in the Chippewa Valley in time for Christmas.
Luckily, many local retailers say they aren’t experiencing those backlogs, as their supplies are sourced from right here in the Chippewa Valley. “These are our neighbors, these are our friends,” said Dustin Olson, communications and promotions manager for Downtown Eau Claire Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes downtown businesses. “These are our community members that you’re supporting when you shop locally. It might take an extra step or two to do it, but in many cases you’re literally supporting someone’s dream. In return, vastly more of your purchase revenue benefits your own community as opposed to going to pay for, say, a space race between billionaires.”
“These are our neighbors, these are our friends. These are our community members that you’re supporting when you shop locally. It might take an extra step or two to do it, but in many cases you’re literally supporting someone’s dream.” –Dustin Olson, Downtown Eau Claire Inc.
Some local businesses, however, are running low of some of their seasonal items, especially if they require products from across the country. The Menomonie Market Food Co-Op must compete with bigger businesses, whose orders are often fulfilled before theirs.
“When you’re shopping this holiday season, just be aware that supply has not recovered yet,” said Kendall Sukopp, the co-op’s marketing manager, “and that it’s even been difficult to get some of our favorite holiday products in this year.”
Numerous local businesses say they are struggling with another national phenomena: the labor shortage. They urge shoppers to be patient and be kind.“Extend a heartfelt thank you,” said Becky Zimmerman of Collective Charm in Chippewa Falls. “Demonstrate your gratitude with a nice tip. Leave a positive review online. Pass a thank-you note to the business manager. Small gestures of gratitude go a long way.”
Shopping local offers a host of benefits to local consumers, according to Sukopp. It provides direct support to area suppliers, gives you access to healthier (and fresher!) food, protects the environment from the harm of transportation that uses excessive fossil fuels, promotes diversity through unique products created by local makers, and grows our community’s economy. At least 48% of the cost of every purchase is circulated back into your community when you purchase an item from a local business. That number drops to 14% when you buy from a national chain.
If you’re short on funds, no worries! Local retailers encourage sharing your favorite products and shops on social media, leaving comments, liking posts, tagging friends, or writing positive reviews on local businesses to help them gain more traction online. If you have family visiting from out of town, introduce them to your favorite local shops. Or try attending any events or workshops that local businesses offer around the holiday season. (You can find them at VolumeOne.org/Events.)
Teri Ouimette of Chippewa Falls Main Street recommends purchasing gift cards to your favorite shops and restaurants for future use. And be sure to show up to your favorite local businesses for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27.
“As we invest in gifts and experiences that will enrich each other’s lives,” said Katie Bushman of String Theory Studio in Chippewa Falls, “it’s important for us to remember that supporting small businesses is one way we can help keep the warm, welcoming feeling of a small town holiday season alive.”