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Thankful for hometown merchants in IW, Surry

This robust week of holiday commerce reminds us again of the importance of shopping at home.

Despite the many reasons we hear from consumers for shopping online and at outlet malls to the north and east, we remain an unapologetic advocate of our Isle of Wight retailers, especially those independently owned businesses that are the backbone of the local economy.

There are many good reasons to shop at home — both during the holidays and year-round.

Hometown merchants take a personal interest in their shoppers, because they know most of

  1. They see us at church, at sporting events, at social functions and all around town. They

treat their customers like friends, not just another consumer with plastic in his wallet.

Supporting local merchants is good for our community. Their sales and property taxes help pay for police and fire protection, street improvements and the like. When you buy locally, you also provide jobs for your friends and neighbors.

Plus, local merchants give back to the community. They are generous in their support of school

and charitable fundraisers, Chamber of Commerce activities, youth sports, the arts and just

about any other good project. We ought to pay them back with our shopping loyalty.

Being an independent merchant is not an easy row to hoe these days, even in a vibrant community like Smithfield. Besides the big-city malls, there is increasing competition from stay-at-home shopping, especially e-commerce behemoth Amazon. We get the convenience, but the internet experience is impersonal and, frankly, just not as much fun as walking into a shop in Isle of Wight or Surry.

As Mistletoe Marketplace again proved over the weekend, shopping with local merchants, especially this time of year, is quite the social experience. If you don’t already know the shop owner, you probably will before you leave. And you’re likely to bump into a friend or neighbor while you’re out and about. So festive and bustling was the scene inside Jim and Elaine Abicht’s Christmas Store, our first stop Saturday night, that Better Half and I weren’t sure we’d make it out to soak up the rest of the scene along Main Street.

Small Business Saturday this coming weekend presents another opportunity to get out and shop local. Strategically timed the day after the madness of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday is a less stressful way to check off the gifts on this year’s list.

If our hometown merchants were to dry up tomorrow, it would immeasurably lower the quality of

life in this community. Let’s all do our part to help them prosper.

 

Steve Stewart is publisher of The Smithfield Times. His email address is steve.stewart@smithfieldtimes.com.