Small Business Saturday encourages people to shop locally. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Small Business Saturday encourages shoppers to buy locally. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish/for City Revealed

Mayor Ron Corbett issued his “gavel challenge” after the September flood in Cedar Rapids, encouraging people to support flood-affected businesses. Corbett called on residents to visit at least 10 of the flood-affected businesses in October, and 15 for cyclists who have enjoyed the city’s investment in bike trails and lanes. The challenge was designed to help the financial recovery of businesses that were forced to temporarily close during the flood, but it also points to the importance of shopping locally, year-round.

Small Business Saturday, which lands on Nov. 26 this year, also encourages shoppers to “shop small” at locally owned businesses. Many of those small shops are located in Iowa’s Main Street districts and downtowns. Leaders of some of those area districts offered their top reasons for shopping locally, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year:

Ashley Zierath, director of Uptown Marion, cited a study by 99 Signals entitled “The Big Impact of Small Businesses.”

Her top reasons for shopping locally:

1) Shopping local, small businesses provides an experience that cannot be bought online, from unique, often one-of-a-kind products to extraordinary customer service.

2) When you shop local, you impact the community in which you live. A recent study revealed roughly 68 percent of revenue from small, local businesses is reinvested into a community; so for every $100 spent at your neighborhood restaurant or boutique, $68 returns to our community.

3) Small businesses not only create jobs at a higher rate, they also pay local taxes, which reduces a homeowner’s tax burden. “Who doesn’t want to support that?” Zierath said.

New Bo Mercantile and Vintage Shop, 215 11th Ave. SE, added men's and women's vintage and lightly worn clothing when the business moved last April from its former site in the Cherry Building. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

New Bo Mercantile and Vintage Shop, 215 11th Ave. SE, sells men’s and women’s vintage and lightly worn clothing, along with natural and do-it-yourself products. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Jennifer Pruden, executive director of the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District, noted that people are getting tired of conventional shopping malls filled with chain stores and are returning to traditional shopping districts with authenticity and independent retailers.

“Why? Because they enjoy the experience that small businesses provide; from personalized customer service, unique store architecture, one-of-a-kind product offerings and shop owners who truly live and breathe their craft,” Pruden said.

Her top reasons to shop local:

1) More of your spending dollar stays in the local economy.

2) You can find unique, hand-made items with outstanding craftsmanship.

3) You can talk directly to the business owner who is an expert in their craft.

4) Small businesses offer personalized service and programming, like workshops, live music and make & take crafts.

Shoppers celebrate Small Business Saturday in Mount Vernon, Iowa. (photo courtesy Joe Jennison)

Shoppers celebrate Small Business Saturday in Mount Vernon, Iowa. (photo courtesy Joe Jennison)

Joe Jennison, director of Main Street and marketing for the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group, noted that Mount Vernon will celebrate Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26, with a downtown event featuring prizes, discounts and giveaways.

Jennison said the celebration will include a large fish tank inside one of the centrally located businesses. Shoppers will be asked to fill out a form and drop it in the tank. Every hour on the half hour, one form will be chosen from the fish tank and that person will be called on their cell phone. If they can get back to the fish tank in 10 minutes, they will win a $25 gift certificate, good for any store in Mount Vernon or Lisbon.

“If they are shopping out of town, of course, they won’t be able to make it,” Jennison said. Unclaimed prizes will roll over to the next hour and the prize will build. Last year, the event included one $75 prize. “It’s fun,” he said. “This event has become more than a day. It is a movement that encourages all of us to shop small every day.”

His top reasons for shopping locally:

1) Shopping small means you are supporting those businesses that are supporting you and your community.

2) Small businesses bring people to our communities.

3) These businesses support our schools, our non-profits and our cities. Small business owners are the lifeblood of this community, this state and this country.

Jennison noted that in the 12-block area that is Main Street Mount Vernon, there are 36 retail stores and 36 service businesses. Those businesses support 158 full-time jobs and 260 part-time jobs.

“These are families that are making their livings on our Main Street,” Jennison said. “These are our friends and neighbors and colleagues. If these small businesses go away, our towns go away.”

“Yes,” he added. “I will be shopping small on Nov. 26, and every day.”

Read more about local events, attractions and more in City Revealed magazine.