It’s a tale as old as time. America is the land of opportunity – where anyone is welcome to come and build their own American Dream, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and cultivate a better life for their family. For millions, this has traditionally meant building a small family business – something they could leave for their children and their children, while simultaneously helping their community grow during the infancy of the country. Starting a small business was about self-reliance and ingrained into the American psyche.
These small businesses became an indelible feature of American life. Small “Mom and Pop stores,” as independent, family-owned businesses became known because of their tendency to be literally owned and managed by someone's Mom and Pop, lined developing town streets, peddling goods and services to townspeople and travelers – which is why small businesses as a group are often referred to as “Main Streets.” The goal of these businesses was rarely to make a fortune but simply to better their community by providing those goods and services that were lacking, while also providing for their family. Even today, if one were to ask small business owners what the best part of their job is, most respond with some iteration of being part of a community. But amidst the rise in chain retailers and Amazon Prime, these mom and pop stores whose very nature are so intrinsically woven into the fabric of American culture, are rapidly becoming something of an endangered species.
It is often said that small businesses don’t find customers for their products, but rather they find products for their customers. Indeed, one of the key hallmarks of many small “Mom and Pops” is that they offer a level of personalization one simply can not find at a box store. While these stores typically only have one location, a small staff that may not extend beyond family members, and historically, less sophisticated ecommerce options, they often offer a level of customer service that surpasses major brands by leaps and bounds. These are the businesses that will help customers source hard to find items or keep that regular customer in mind while buying for the next season.
What’s more, these are the businesses that drive tourism which ultimately brings more dollars into our community for needed infrastructure and services. These businesses provide the nostalgic character that tourists seek out. Most people don’t look forward to visiting Richmond so that they can pop into Target, but they do get excited about going to Carytown or the Arts District for First Fridays.
While the trend toward entrepreneurship has waned substantially over the decades, for many, 2020 was the final blow. Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide have been forced to permanently close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – most of which were small, local businesses as well as minority owned businesses who were disproportionately affected. Businesses who have loyally served communities for generations, were forced to close their doors forever because they simply didn’t have access to the resources needed to survive amongst the big box stores during such a tumultuous year.
Nationwide, these businesses account for approximately 64% of all jobs created, which will also be lost if the businesses themselves are lost, compounding an already stressed job market. What’s more, local businesses give back more financially to their communities keeping approximately $68 for every $100 spent within the community as opposed to $43 with a national retailer.
This year, in honor of National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day on March 29, 2021, get out in the community and show your support for these special independent business who give back so much to our community. If you’re looking for more reasons to support local businesses, check out this list of Seven Reasons to Shop Local or get started with these Tips for Being Loyal to Local.