Building Community, Restoring the Economy

One of the many things I like about living in Alexandria, Virginia is the small town feel with big city amenities. Public transportation, from buses to cabs to subway, is plentiful and easily accessible yet Alexandria remains a very walkable (and “bikeable”) city. The small family-run shops along Alexandria’s main street, the historic King Street, contributes to the Mayberry-like ambiance.

Having grown up in a family-run shop and, now, owning my own little shop (full disclosure: yes, on King Street in Old Town Alexandria), I know how difficult it is to actually make a decent living in small, independent retail. These days, with the encroachment of Wal-Marts and other big-box and national chain stores, we independent shopkeepers seem to be a dying breed.

And yet, it is the small independent businesses that continue to be the financial backbone of any town or city in America. According to the American Independent Business Alliance (

* Every dollar spent at a local, independent business returns three times more money to the local economy than one spent at a chain store;

* Locally-owned businesses make fewer demands on roads, sewers, and other city services than chain stores, and generate more tax revenue per sales dollar thus helping to keep your taxes lower;

* Locally-owned businesses employ more local residents and pay higher wages than the average chain store;

* Locally-owned businesses contribute to a neighborhood’s unique character and provide opportunities for social gatherings, contributing to a sense of community;

* Locally-owned businesses contribute more than twice as much per sales dollar than chains to local charities, clubs, and events – giving back to the community in many ways.

In these difficult economic times, many people are understandably cutting back on their holiday spending. However, if you plan to shop at all during the next few weeks, you may want to consider shopping at your locally-owned neighborhood stores. Think of your favorite neighborhood business and how you might feel if it weren’t there next year. Buying your holiday gifts at the shops owned by your neighbors ensures that your gifts will be original, thoughtful, and valued; and contributes to revitalizing the local economy – for everyone’s sake.

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