By The Herald Editorial Board
If your holiday shopping during the last couple of pandemic years tended toward the phone screen more than the physical store scene, that’s understandable. Yet maybe it’s time to venture out and do some browsing that involves more strolling than scrolling by getting to know the small businesses in your community.
And don’t worry about getting back into holiday shopping form; this is a return to form — if not a new experience — for many businesses, too. Maybe we should start small, namely with Small Business Saturday.
Started 12 years ago to support local and small businesses, Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26, organizes local businesses, chambers of commerce and downtown organizations nationwide, encouraging shoppers to patronize the small independent shops and businesses in their community, spreading the wealth of the season to help support those businesses and local economies.
This will be a first for Travis Lovestedt, if not for his business, Broadway Hobbies, at 2531 Broadway. Lovestedt, who also is a real estate broker, recently bought the venerable North Everett hobby shop that has occupied a former creamery for decades. The last owner was a family friend, Lovestedt said, who wanted to sell but found few takers during the pandemic. Lovestedt bought the business — which sells remote-controlled cars and planes, model railroad sets, model rockets and more — and has renewed his own childhood interest in RC cars.
“I’m finally getting back into it and I love it. I don’t have a lot of experience like some of these guys, but I will soon enough,” he said.
The same goes for running a hobby shop, he said. Having owned the shop only since September, this will be his first holiday shopping season and his first Small Business Saturday.
“I don’t know what to expect to be honest,” Lovestedt said. “But what I hope is to get a lot of new clientele to show them what the store is all about and get them interested in some type of hobby. We’ve got a little bit of everything for everybody.”
This holiday season will be a learning period, but one that Lovestedt is looking forward to.
“Of course, we want to make some money and stick around for another 20-plus years,” he said.
A healthy turnout of customers could be key for small businesses that rely on the few weeks before Christmas to put or keep them in the black for the year, this year especially as local economies have worked to weather the ups and downs of more than two years of the covid-19 pandemic.
It’s key not only for small businesses’ owners, but their employees and the local economies that can make the most of the dollars spent locally.
Patronizing local independent businesses can return up to three times as much money per dollar spent, compared to that spent at chain retailers, according to a study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. For every $100 spent at an independent retailer, $45 is returned to the community in support of other businesses, compared to $14 for the large chain stores. For online retail, the return to the local economy barely registers in cash registers: about a $1.
And for restaurants, $100 spent at an independent restaurant returns about $65 to the local economy, compared to $34 for chain restaurants.
Eric and Krista Brown, owners marking nearly two years for their bottle shop — The Grape & Grain — at 6502 Evergreen Way in Everett, are counting on the shop’s recent addition of sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, grilled panini sandwiches, salads and even gelato to attract more customers during the holiday shopping season.
Admittedly, the previous two Small Business Saturdays, coming during the pandemic, didn’t bring a lot of customers through the door, Eric Brown said.
“We heard about it, but it didn’t help us very much,” he said.
But the couple have pressed on, offering a happy hour until 6 each night, live music and now a food menu that also offers those items for dining in or to go, along with their selection of beer, cider and wine. The shop specializes in Washington and Pacific Northwest beer and wine.
“We try to focus on items that folks don’t normally see on the big stacks at the grocery stores,” Brown said, from small local breweries, Northwest craft brewers and a few selections from upstate New York and Colorado. The shop’s wines also are primarily from Washington and the Northwest, with some California wineries filling in the gaps.
Fortunately, Washington produces well-made beer and wine.
“That’s why we don’t look too far outside the borders,” he said.
That’s the added attraction of patronizing small business; they typically support other small businesses. Money spent locally means more support for a community’s jobs and suppliers, which, in turn creates demand and support for other jobs, including teachers, first responders, medical professionals, construction workers and more, not to mention supporting local services through tax revenue.
Small businesses make up 99.5 percent of all businesses in Washington state, according to the 2022 Small Business Profile from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. More than 657,500 small businesses employed more than 1.4 million employees in the state, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all employment, with a total payroll of more than $74 billion.
Along with Grape & Grain’s extensive list of bottled and canned brews and bottled wines, the shop also is offering gift baskets, as well as glassware, bar tools and some mixing supplies, including kits of bitters-infused sugar cubes for easy-to-make cocktails.
The shop will be open throughout the holiday weekend, except for Thanksgiving Day, offering live music by local performers.
Brown is hoping this Small Business Saturday brings some folks in who haven’t seen the place before.
“It would be nice; it’s been a tough couple of years,” he said.
Maybe more than a few of us could use a good, local drink.