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Shopping outside the (big) box

Buying local offers much for shoppers, the community

Local shoppers will have double the chances for Christmas deals this weekend with the addition of Small Business Saturday following Black Friday.

Saturday, Nov. 24 is the third annual Small Business Saturday created by American Express to encourage people to shop local.

By shopping locally you’re not paying for “a CEO’s third summer house, you’re literally paying for a shop owner’s kid to go to karate,” said Amy Kelly, owner of K. Alyn, a women’s clothing store in downtown Morris.

“What’s nice about downtown Morris is they’re all family-owned businesses,” she said.

If avoiding crowded malls and the search for a parking space wasn’t enough to encourage shoppers to stay in town, Julie Applegate, executive director of the Morris Downtown Development Partnership, reminds people that when you shop local, more of the money stays in the community.

“For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, an average of $45 goes back into the local community. For every $100 spent at big box stores, only $14 comes back,” she said.

In addition, Applegate said the local stores carry more unique items than what you find in chain stores.
Small Business Saturday allows for people to get to some of Morris’ newer stores that some may not have gotten a chance to get to yet — stores such as Blackbird’s Bowl, The Feathered Nest and Body Shapers.

And, of course, downtown Morris’ old favorites such as Apple Butter/Shugie’s, The Front Porch and Ruby Begonia’s are also there to serve the needs of local shoppers.

Those local shoppers will find products that were chosen specifically for Morris shoppers, not what is trending in big cities such as Chicago, said Jim Baum, owner of Here’s Hallmark in Morris.

Kelly of K. Alyn said Tuesday she was in the process of turning over her merchandise for the weekend and marking down older items.

“We have a ton of new arrivals to make it fresh for the weekend,” she said.

But what might even be more important than unique products is the reinvestment the local businesses provide, said Baum.

The local business owners are the first to give to local churches, organizations and charities.

“Sometimes it feels that every person looking for a donation starts on Liberty Street, but that’s the history of local businesses,” said Baum.

Research shows that non-profit organizations receive an average of 250 percent more support from smaller business owners than from large businesses, said Applegate.

Because of downtown Morris’ loyal shoppers, the town continues to thrive. There are few vacancies, said Applegate, a trait the town is very grateful for.

“We’re so lucky in Morris we still are one of the strongest downtowns outside of the Chicago suburban area and in the state of Illinois,” said Baum.

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