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  • Writer's pictureJulie Gile

Views from Main Street - Why Brick and Mortar Matter

I am so tired of how virtual our world has become since March 2020.

It was a year watching our sweet kiddos struggle to make connections through a screen with their teachers and classmates, engaging in Zoom and FaceTime calls with friends where each week I could see their inner spark getting duller, connecting with clients over an email instead of a cup of coffee... and don’t even get me started on online shopping.

Of course, Amazon Prime 2-day delivery has its pros, and I’m very thankful for it when I suddenly realize I’m out of dog chews and don’t have time to run to the pet store. But I really miss the in-person human connection, and I think you do too.

Remember the “Good Old Days”?

There is something nostalgic about taking your kids into a store to pick out their back-to-school shoes. It’s the greeting you receive when you walk in the door and the comfort and understanding that the person holding the measuring device has the right knowledge and will fit your kids properly in shoes that will help them grow. It’s the joy on your kids face when they’re told to take a run around the store (something they’re never allowed to do unless they’re at the shoe store!) just to confirm that they are the fastest shoes on the shelf - and, of course, the mischievous grin when the shop owner slips them an extra piece of candy on the way out the door with a wink.

Now, with just three clicks, that same pair of shoes is shipped to your door in an Amazon box.

Albeit more convenient, it certainly lacks that personal touch... as well as extra candy.

Amazon’s profits soared 220% during the pandemic, according to the New York Times. But those small businesses that have been around for 30 years, faithfully sponsor the local football team, and remember your name when you walk through the door, really took a hit.

Why Local Businesses Are NOT Dead!

When you talk to the owners of those brick and mortar businesses, which I find myself doing every week in my local photography business, they say that even though it’s been a tough two years, there’s undoubtedly a shining ray of hope. You can hear in their voices as they excitedly talk about the upcoming products that will be in soon, and how they are so thankful for the customers who have supported them - and will continue to do so.

In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that brick-and-mortar businesses will see a resurgence. I don’t have any fancy scientific or analytical data to back this up, but when you experience the loneliness that all of us have, this past nineteen months, you know the way to remedy that need and longing is to fill it with human connection.

Making the 2021 Holiday Shopping Season Count

So what does this mean for business owners and patrons?

My hope is that businesses will be packed, bustling with shoppers and cheer this holiday season. I hope people will come out to support them in droves - and the reason shelves become empty isn’t because of the supply chain, but because customers are eager to support local businesses and recognize the value they add to their communities.

For shop owners, it means providing not just items to purchase, but an experience that makes people want to come back, year after year. It’s a smile on your face, a servant heart and desire to help those who walk through the door, wrapping packages and delivering them after hours, or having a fresh pot of coffee greeting your clients to make them feel like your store is an extension of what they consider home.

It falls on the shoppers too. It means that you may be spending an extra $10 on a gift instead of scanning coupons in an app, but realizing that the value far outweighs those few dollars. You may even end up getting the better end of the deal - because alterations at your local shop are included, and there’s no question that gift wrapping is just another cheerful service they offer. It means extending grace when items are back-ordered, or when there’s a 10-minute wait to check out because it’s just mom and dad working one afternoon.

Without small businesses, the local football team wouldn’t have sponsors, the Lion’s Club would struggle to find donations for their raffles and door prizes, that dance studio down the road wouldn’t receive 20% off dance shoes because of a partnership, and you wouldn’t receive that handwritten thank you note in the mail a week after you shop.

There’s no better time to shop small and support local makers and businesses than this Christmas. With supply chain issues on the coasts and products sitting on ships for weeks, it’s time that we turn to those closest to home who have always been there for us, and make it their best holiday season ever!

Around Christmas time, there’s always a tangible and joyful feeling in the air. I think that feeling is hope.

And this year, hope is stronger than ever, as we all hope to see those we love once again and long for a new year with fresh beginnings. Those better and brighter days are coming back to brick and mortar, and it starts not just with me and you, but all of us.

Ready to get your holiday shopping off to a great start? Download my Best Local Stocking Stuffer Guide From Women-Owned Businesses!

Keep it local this holiday season, and support the families who give your town the character we call home.

Happy Holidays,

xo- Julie

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