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Support Your Neighborhood by Shopping at Local Small Businesses

Kristen Howe supports local small businesses by following them online and shopping in person. She encourages everyone to think local.

How to support small businesses

How to support small businesses

Support Your Local Economy

Back in the day, small mom-and-pop shops survived and thrived through tremendous times in our past. When big-box retailers like Target and Amazon took over, they closed their doors and went out of business. Nowadays, local small businesses are still going through the same types of crises. But there are many free or inexpensive ways to help support your local small businesses and your state’s economy now and after the holiday season.

Shopping Around

Window-Shopping or Browsing: The next time you’re driving by, or strolling through your local neighborhood, stop by your local boutiques, shops, and stores to see what they have to offer this week. Check out what they have on display for sale. If something tickled your fancy, go inside and say hi to the local store owners. Look around and browse through the aisles. Small business prices would be much lower than what you might find at Walmart, Amazon, or Target, for example. Looking for a stationary set or a ball-point pen? A book? A plague or an award? A top or a vest? A dozen cookies? Whatever it might be, one small item could go a long way to help pay their rent.

Buy Online Books: Looking for your next best-seller to read? The latest issues of your local newspapers or magazines to skim through? Shop independent and small bookstores and get a bargain out of the deal. Go online to browse and make it easier. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, put it on your wish list, and wait for it to arrive at your door when it’s back in stock. Pre-ordering items like bookmarks, stationary, pens, and coffee cups helps save time too.

Take Online Classes: If you’re looking for something to fill your days, check out your local stores to watch online or live-stream classes from their sites or social media accounts. From working out to making homemade crafts and essential items at home, your views would make it worth their while to stay in business. Order new merchandise from their websites before the date your class starts, and then follow along with the instructors at home. Your participation would make it count and matter greatly.

DIY Home Improvement and Decor Projects: Have a project you’ve put off for the longest time? DIY is here to stay. Whether it’s for holidays, special occasions, or in general for your home, you can order supplies and equipment and a variety of crafts from their sites. Stop procrastinating, and don’t put it off any longer. Make a difference to pay it forward.

Shop Now for Later: If you don’t see something that might interest you, think about buying it for somebody special who might like it. A loved one or a family member? Your pet? Your boss or colleagues? Your neighbor? Your best friend? Whether it’s for a milestone, a holiday, or other special occasions, this gift shows them how much you’re thinking about them and care.

Gift Cards and Gift Certificates: If you can’t think of something they might like, consider buying a gift card or gift certificate from their favorite local retailers. Everyone at any age loves receiving them as a gift. This way, there’s no hassle of buying the wrong gift for them when it might be returned to the stores later, unused and still wrapped. It can be anywhere from $5 to $25, when they can buy what they want in-person or online. This is the gift that keeps on giving.

Curbside Express and Deliver: If you need something really fast and don’t want to stand in line, you can order your purchases via Curbside Express. Whether by their sites or apps, park your car in the designated parking lot and wait for them to carry it over in a cart to your car. Pop your trunk, and you’re all set. Another option is having it delivered to you via e-commerce. If you’re hospitalized, sick, stuck in traffic, or trapped due to a snowstorm, for example, online delivery orders could save you time and the hassle.

Dining Out

Eating Local Foods: If you have a craving or the munchies for a snack, stop by your local eateries in your area. Need a fix for chocolate to please your sweet tooth? Give your local bakeries a try for some cookies, brownies, or a slice of pie. If you’re having a hankering, visit your local restaurants and cafes. Maybe it's for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. You can’t go wrong by ordering a pizza slice, a platter of a BLT sandwich with fries, or drinking an ice-cold glass of sweetened iced tea. One small purchase could change lives in an instant and keep them in business. Make this visit even better by bringing a friend, a loved one, or a coworker to dine with you during your lunch breaks or after your shifts.

Gifts Cards Galore: Like with retail stores, a gift card or certificate is a fine present to treat yourself or to someone you care about when they’re down and blue. Ask around if they have a loyalty rewards program if they don’t have gift cards yet. This way, they can use it for eating in or taking out food on the way home.

Bakeries, Coffee Shops, and Breweries: If you’re hankering for a sweet treat, get your chocolate fix at your local bakery. Skip Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme the next time you’re out. Purchase a cookie, a donut, or even a pastry to satisfy your munchies. Buy a dozen for your workplace and treat your coworkers. Want to hang out and chill with your friends? Stop by your local brewery or winery to try a pint to sample their newest flavors. Order pizza, burgers with fries, and an ice-cold drink, while you mingle with your friends. If you like what they have to offer, purchase a bottle or a six-pack to take home with you for Game Night and any other outings.

Sports Bars, Bars, and Nightclubs: Looking for some high-octane sports action? Hang out at your local sports bars or club to watch the biggest sporting events on a big-screen TV. Order some ale and have some burgers and fries for your hub. Bring your colleagues, family, or friends to cheer on your favorite teams. Wear your favorite jerseys and go crazy. Your local bars and nightclubs are great places to hang out with your friends, even in the after-hours. Dance the night away, order a great meal and an ice-cold drink, listen to live music, or make a request with the DJ and make conversation with people there.

Generous Tipping: When you’re dining out, be patient and courteous to the front house, waitstaff, and back-of-house staff. Times have been tough on time for the past two years. A generous tip could go a long way when you pay the bill to dine-in, take-out, or do online deliveries.

Other Ways to Support Your Neighborhood Community

Floral Shops: These are great places to buy a flower, a bouquet, or a corsage for home decor, special events, or to cheer someone up. Whether it’s artificial or real, balloons and ribbons make any day feel special to celebrate and lighten their mood.

Dog Bakeries: Take your dog for a walk and stop by your local dog bakery if you have one. Give your furry friend a sweet treat for good behavior and the rest to take home. Your beloved family pet will thank you for it later.

Non-Profits: If your local community supports a non-profit charity organization, donate a small monetary amount or a gift to them. No matter how big or small, this donation might help them fit their needs and bring new revenue to them. Gift cards and other small items like plaques and trophies, a mug, or even a bag of fresh-brewed coffee would be highly appreciated.

Local Artwork: One way to spruce up your blank walls is buying and gifting local artwork, prints, photos, to decorate your home. Go to your local retail stores, coffee shops, and bookstores for hung artwork that might be on sale. It might be the perfect decoration for your home or office. Or maybe for someone else you had in mind who might enjoy it.

Gyms: Want to have a good workout? Consider signing up at your local YMCA, health club, or gym for a membership. If you’re stretched thin to buy a yearly membership, check to see if your health insurance covers it like Silver Sneakers. Or you can try it out with a daily and monthly membership to fit your fitness needs.

Farmer's Markets: Looking for something new and fresh? Stop by your local farmer’s markets and orchards and community-supported agriculture coops. Due to inflation and supply chain issues, shopping local and small will have lower prices for produce, dairy, and meat products. Some CSAs will deliver fresh products when in season right to your door. You can also buy natural products from potpourri to candles and hand soaps to seasonal wreaths at a stall next door.

Festivals: Every year, your downtown hosts annual festivals like Italian Fest, Irish Fest, Oktoberfest, and Founder’s Day. Food trucks, vendors, and your local retailers and eateries come together to generate new revenue for big business. This is a great way to try new food, peruse the stores for items on sale, and have a good time for an hour or two on the weekend.

Free Events: If you're lucky enough, check out free events like movie nights, concerts and plays outside of festival days. Watch a movie on the big screen, bring a chair or a blanket, and munch on popcorn while you drink soda. Listen to the music from the local symphony or high school's marching band. Be entertained by local actors participating in musicals or plays.


10 Free Ways to Help Support Your Local Small Businesses

  1. Leave a Positive Review and Glowing Comment: Every business loves to receive a good review on its site. Say how you loved the food you ate at the restaurant or how you loved the product you purchased at the store. Say thank you and that you would return as a new customer or patron. Post it on their sites, Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, and even on social media too. This way, they would see it and share it with others. If they share a post, leave a friendly comment, and you’ll be back to visit them soon.
  2. Connect With Them and Tag Friends: If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Instagram, follow your local brands to stay in touch with them. This way, you’ll find out about their latest sale deals, new products coming out, pop-up events, and more. And when they do, you can share posts, retweet tweets, like, pin, leave a comment, and heart them. Read their latest stories in their feeds or blog posts. And they might follow you back too. Want to take it further? Tag a friend or two while you’re doing retail therapy or having lunch in the townon the weekendd.
  3. Sign Up for E-Newsletters or Free Text Alerts: To get in the know, you can sign up for your local downtown’s partnership newsletter on what’s going on in your neighborhood. Or you can sign up for them individually. This way, you’ll know what promo offers they have, the latest products or menu items coming out, the newest deals, discounted coupons, and so much more. You can always opt out or change the email settings. Or sign up to get a free text alert. This is the easiest way to show your support as a loyal fan and frequent patron or customer.
  4. Word-of-Mouth and Referrals: One of the best ways to help give your local downtown neighborhood your full support is word-of-mouth. Spread the word to your family and friends, neighbors, colleagues, and coworkers in person. Recommend them to try your favorite eateries and retail stores. Give them a glowing referral too. If you’re expecting people coming over from out-of-town or even out-of-state, tell them about it via text, tweet, and a call.
  5. Give Thanks and Send Messages: If you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop by your favorite local stores and restaurants to say hi and thank you in person. Your courtesy and kindness could make their slow business day brighter with a warm smile, a nod, and a wave when you check in with them. So the next time you visit their restaurants and stores, they’ll greet you in the same way too. Via social media, email, or their contact forms on their websites, send a message to them for general feedback or how much you liked their products and tried their new menu items. Tell them how much you appreciate them with a general "hi," "thank you," and other encouraging words.

    6. Selfie Shout-Outs and Pics: If you buy a promotional item from their store with a logo, take a selfie and tag them in the post. At a restaurant, cafe, pizzeria, or local bar, do the same, whether it’s inside while you eat and drink or outside when you head home with leftovers. Even if it’s on the take-home bag, this would help bring new business to them when potential new customers see your selfie shout-outs on social media or blog posts.

    7. Visit the Site: Just like window-shopping in person, you can scroll through the virtual store and see what’s on sale and in stock. It might pique your curiosity to go there for a future visit or purchase something online right away. Scroll through the tabs and be a frequent visitor and customer.

    8. Lend a Helping Hand: Most small businesses would require some extra assistance to help around the neighborhood for a special project. Volunteers are always needed to lend a helping hand on a short-time basis. Sometimes small businesses might be hiring for seasonal or part-time positions, especially if they’re new to the neighborhood block and opening up. Ask around if you can assist them in person or online to volunteer or be employed within their store. You can check out your local chamber of commerce’s site or your downtown partnership’s web page to find out more information about your local stores and restaurants.

    9. Google Them and Change Your Shopping Habits: Another easy way to support your Googling with the key words “search local small businesses near me.” Start with your neighborhood and then work your way to the nearest cities within driving distance to the next big town in your area. Instead of shopping online for Amazon or Target, load your shopping carts from your local stores. They might have what you need for a lower price and shorter lines.

    10. Hire Small Businesses and Do Holiday Shopping Early: If you’re planning a big or small special event, consider hiring your local small businesses to host your party. This brings new revenue to them and also new frequent customers to stop by in the future. If it works out well, you might continue to hire them in the future to cater, decorate, or plan your outings. The holiday season is around the corner. It’s time to think small and shop online or in person instead of the big-box retailers. Grab your list and shop til you drop by hitting your local stores and scheduling orders for catered foods and delicious treats.

Think Local and Small Every Day

There are so many ways everyone can support their local small businesses for free and with inexpensive purchases. There are many benefits to helping your downtown retailers and restaurants. It helps your community, your environment, and your economy thrive in the future. Treat every day like Small Business Saturday for all your shopping needs. Plan every day with special occasions, holidays, or celebrations for catering and eating out with friends and family to enjoy new foods.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Kristen Howe