Local retailers are urging Olney consumers to spend their holiday — and year-round — shopping dollars with them.
American Express is again promoting its Small Business Saturday, encouraging consumers to shop at small merchants Saturday, the day after Black Friday. And while the Olney Chamber of Commerce supports the campaign, Executive Director Jon Hulsizer encourages shoppers to continue to support local businesses for more than just one day.
“The Olney Chamber of Commerce endorses this philosophy by encouraging everyone to think local and to shop small business for the entire 2013 holiday season,” he said. “There is so much to be found right here in the greater Olney area. Shopping locally not only means saving on gas, or running into neighbors and friends, it shows your local small businesses how important they are to the quality of life here.”
The Maryland Retailers Association says retailers depend on shoppers during the holidays to maintain their ability to provide economic vitality to their communities and are the largest private-sector employer in Maryland.
Tom Christopher, owner of Christopher’s Hardware in Ashton, agrees with the importance of supporting local businesses.
“We employ locally and we bank locally, so everything stays right in the community,” he said. “The people who work here turn around and spend their money at other local merchants.”
Christopher said small businesses can offer something that large retailers can’t: items specifically geared to the community.
“For instance, homes built in Olney Mill or Lake Hallowell were built during a certain era, with certain components,” he said. “We understand the local demand and are able to stock specific items, such as a special-sized furnace filter or a faucet washer. It’s a level of personalized service you aren’t going to find at the larger stores.”
Christopher said a vibrant local economy enhances everything about a community. It keeps shopping centers full, allows businesses to support local charities, helps property values and generally enhances the quality of life.
“Getting in your car and driving outside the community takes time, and time is money,” he said. “Money’s cheap, but time you can’t replace.”
Debi and Mike Klein have owned and operated The Backyard Naturalist in Olney for 25 years.
“It’s been such a joy to see the different generations that have shopped with us,” Debi Klein said. “We’ve seen graduations, engagements, marriages and unfortunately we’ve lost some of our shoppers. Being a mom-and-pop shop allows us to get to know our customers and see the life cycle, which has been such a joy to us.”
Klein said one of the myths about small retailers is that their products cost more than they would online or at a large store.
“We don’t play the sale game,” she said. “We offer unique merchandise for fair price, along with old-fashioned customer service, and you can’t beat that.”
Shannon Gorman, owner of Gorman’s Garments & Gear in Olney, said many people just don’t know what products are available locally. For instance, her store sells much more than medical scrubs and school uniforms.
“We have personalized gifts, personalized ornaments, Dansko shoes, Under Armour sunglasses and many pre-packaged gift items ready to take and give,” she said. “Once people make it into the store, they see we have a lot to offer.”
Gorman said she looks forward to the holiday season.
“I enjoy seeing people come in. Since we live in the community, these are our friends and neighbors,” she said. “The extra festive time of year puts the staff and customers in a brighter, happier place.”
Gorman said that through the chamber, businesses subsidize the Olney Police Satellite Station and through chamber events such as National Night Out, they support the local police and fire departments. Gorman’s, along with many other local businesses, also regularly contributes to Olney’s Relay for Life, youth sports programs, schools, churches and other fundraisers.
According to information from American Express, shopping at local independently owned businesses keeps 52 percent of what is spent in the community, supporting local organizations and services.
“It’s nice to be able to support these causes and it would be nice if people in turn support the small businesses,” Gorman said. “Shopping in large stores or online has no impact on the community.”
This will be the first holiday season for The Look Boutique in Olney’s Fair Hill Shopping Center.
Owner Donna Johnson said business already has picked up for the holidays.
“People need to shop locally, because this is a community and we all need to be a part of it,” Johnson said. “It’s a shame that many small businesses struggle, because they really do offer the best customer service.”
A complete list of chamber members is at www.olneymd.org.