Small Business Saturday Helps Build Local Economy

Thriving towns all need solid support from dedicated community members. On Saturday, Nov. 29, the community has a chance to come together and provide a positive impact on the local economy as businesses celebrate Small Business Saturday.

Bob Rivers, owner of National Grind coffee shop on Lawrence Avenue and board of directors member of the Ellwood City Chamber of Commerce, discussed the importance in shopping local this time of year.

“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Rivers said of Small Business Saturday. “This is the best time, with Black Friday coming up, Small Business Saturday, and then Cyber Monday. By staying local, 47-percent of the money spent goes back to the community, whereas that number drops to about 17-percent in a corporate store.”

Surprisingly, American Express, a corporate credit card company, began a campaign called ‘Shop Small’ in 2010. Participating businesses sign up, and receive promotion from American Express. Then, customers who support those local businesses get $10 back on every purchase — up to $30 — just for spending money there. In a CBS interview this past Monday, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault explained that “anyone can make a difference. This is frankly the one movement that I will tell you is not limited to American Express. You can use any credit card. You can use cash. You can use checks. All we want you to do is to support small businesses in your community.”

Rivers took what Chenault said to heart, and joined in the campaign.

“Their CEO said ‘if not for small businesses, we would have no local economy,’ Rivers said. “That’s so true. Corporate stores have it down to a science…they need to meet sales quotas, and people are numbers. Locally, people are customers who get more personable experiences. If you walk into a store [around here], it’s inviting and warm. Even here [at National Grind], I try to locally source as much as possible. We use top-of-the-line Commonplace coffee roasters… everything we do as a small business comes from a small business.”

Many citizens became involved in supporting small business last year, when the Ellwood City Cash Mob first formed. One Saturday each month, the mob gathers at the community plaza and chooses a local business to go to and spend at least $20. Inevitably, the patrons remain in town to shop, eat and drink at other businesses.

This Saturday, the mob, which is open to anyone who wants to support the cause, heads to Glamorous Tanning and Specialty Boutique at 11 a.m. Upon arrival, the “mobbers” will receive IDs that provide them with special offers at other local businesses throughout the day. Efforts such as this create a snowball effect, according to recently-named chamber of commerce director Lori Hilliard.

“Ellwood City truly is driven by a community effort,” Hilliard said. “It really becomes a snowball effect, because everyone wants to join in. I am really excited about this weekend. We want to turn Ellwood City into a destination location where people can shop and eat, stay the night, and shop some more the next day.”
Some people help the community by volunteering for events, such as light-up night or Christmas in the Park, but Rivers wants others who cannot help with those efforts to know that they can still help out.

“A lot of people want to be part of the community, and sometimes volunteering is hard to do,” Rivers said. “Shopping local is a great [alternative] to giving back to the town and helping out.”

Small Business Saturday is this Saturday, Nov. 9. The Cash Mob begins at 11 a.m. Those interested in joining should meet at the community plaza on Lawrence Avenue with $20 at 10:45 a.m.

National Grind will be raffling off gift cards and ‘Shop Small’ totes, and will have drink specials all day. The new winter menu goes into effect this Friday.
Stay local, and shop in town. Many stores will be participating in Small Business Saturday, so be proactive and get involved!

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