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Community over competition

Last Wednesday, Trudie, Greg, and I went over to Happy’s for lunch. The little restaurant was bustling as usual with its normal lunch crowd, then walked in a sight to behold—another restauranteur. Cutler Bernard, who helps run Berni’s on West Main, along with his girlfriend and his brother, had crossed Highway 80, trekked the short distance across the beautiful courtyard downtown, crossed Roger Shaw Street, found themselves a table, and ordered through the waitress a bite to eat. We know a good photo op when we see it, so we asked Bernard if he’d be interested in taking a photo with Happy’s owner Seth Edenfield to show the citizenry of Emanuel that the key to a successful community, as both of these business owners have come to understand through the years, is community over competition.

Not only did the two agree without hesitation, but Seth went to the storage closet and emerged with something that would give the photo a little more flare: two coffee cups branded not with “Happy’s” imagery but that of Berni’s instead. That in itself is a story worth reading. Luckily for you, we’ve got the skinny.

As it turns out, Seth got his start in the restaurant business under the direction of Cutler and his father, David. The Chronicle reached out to Seth and asked him what the Bernards’ support means to him today, and he returned the following:

“Cut and Dave... If it wasn’t for them, I would never be where I am now! Dave brought me on as a dishwasher and taught me everything from washing dishes to running the kitchen like I did for them, and Cut taught me the front of the house—how to handle customers, employees, and how to be a people person. Like I said, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have Happy’s... And I don’t know where I would be career-wise.”

The Crossroads Chronicle looked to Cutler for his take on his fellow local businessman as well. He said, “I’d like to say how proud we are of him. He has worked for and with us for a long time, and we’re just so happy that he’s doing well.”

Perhaps the camaraderie between these two restauranteurs boils down to friendship. Maybe they realize it’s about the bigger picture. Or maybe it’s both! Whether you’re a business owner yourself or a regular shopper, your local shops benefit in numerous ways from your patronage. Supporting mom-and-pop shops directly affects our community as well.

Intuit, Inc., headquartered in Mountain View, California, is an American business that specializes in financial software. Some of its flagship products include TurboTax, QuickBooks, and a personal finance management website and mobile app for the U.S. and Canada called Mint.

The Chronicle did a little research to find some enlightening facts about shopping local. Through our search, we came across Mint’s website. The company compiled the following statistics after surveying 1,500 Americans early this year:

• Some 55 percent of Americans shopped in-store, despite the pandemic. Most purchases included personal care items, digital entertainment, food, fashion, and healthcare items.

• Even with that overwhelming support of local shoppers, small businesses still struggled in 2020. Twenty-eight percent of people in the survey considered their local economy to be in “good health.” However, 75 percent of businesses overall reported that COVID-19 had a negative effect on their operations. In fact, up to 50 percent of shops closed in some places.

• Fortunately, one in five consumers were focused on shopping small in the winter of 2020, and 82 percent of consumers said they would spend more to support local businesses after the pandemic. Those funds help! Keep reading.

• For every $100 you spend at a locally owned business, $68 will stay in the community. This is a stark contrast to when you spend $100 at a chain store, which yields only $43 staying in the community.

• 20 percent of small businesses today are working on building e-commerce storefronts as well, a necessity in today’s tech-driven world.

This kind of support directly translates to a better community. When you shop locally, you’re helping in ways you probably don’t even realize!

For instance, you’re embracing what makes your community unique. You wouldn’t want your home to look like everyone else’s, so why would you want your community to look that way? Built-from-the-ground-up businesses allow for creative freedom, which lends to unique aesthetics in your town.

You’re also helping the environment (because buying locally conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging).

Some of the more traditional benefits of shopping small include:

Creating jobs for locals, which mom-and-pops are notorious for. Your continued support of their business helps sustain those jobs.

Nurturing your community. After all, studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.

Conserving your tax dollars. Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money available to beautify your community. Also, spending locally instead of online ensures your sales taxes are reinvested where they belong—in your area!

Strengthening public services. Local businesses mean a stronger tax base and better use of public services compared to nationally owned stores. This translates into better schools and emergency response services, among other like benefits, for you and your family.

Creating more choice. Locally owned businesses pick the items and products based on what they know their consumers like and want. As a result, local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because they buy for their individual markets.

Taking advantage of quality customer service. Local business owners are your friends and neighbors who have a vested interest in serving you. They’re passionate about what they do, and their commitment to service makes for a better customer service experience.

Investing in entrepreneurship. Patronizing small shops helps ensure that their owners’ bravery and risk-taking to start a business in your area will be worthwhile.

Making your community a destination. The more interesting and unique your community is, the more it attracts new neighbors, visitors, and guests.

As you can see, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting our small businesses! These are just a few ways shopping local helps us all succeed. It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in or how many places in town there are to get the same goods and services; share the love because community always trumps competition. Just ask Seth and Cutler!

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