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Small Business Saturday encourages shopping at local stores

MORRIS – Inside Vintage, a shop in downtown Morris, Chris Schusler found the perfect “holiday teacup” for her annual gift exchange. 

“I love shopping at small businesses like these,” said Schusler, who drove from Rochelle to do her holiday shopping in downtown Morris. “The stores here have such unique things.” 

Vintage owner Cassie Van Tassel said she hopes more consumers follow Schusler’s lead and shop at small businesses this holiday season. To encourage them, Van Tassel is participating, for the second consecutive year, in Small Business Saturday, which is scheduled for this weekend.

Small Business Saturday – which falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving – is an annual shopping event organized by American Express that began in 2010. The initiative encourages shoppers to avoid major retailers and shop small during the holiday season.

Van Tassel said she will offer 10 percent discounts on all vintage merchandise in conjunction with the event. 

“It’s a good way to remind people that small businesses are an option, too, this holiday season,” Van Tassel said. “Small businesses are important. The money people spend at their local businesses goes back into the community one way or another.” 

According to 2010 census data, the 800 small businesses – or businesses that have fewer than 20 employees – in Grundy County collectively employ 3,099 people, making them a vital employment source for people in the area.

Nationally, 23 million small businesses account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales and provide 55 percent of all jobs in the U.S. according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Most small business owners live in the community they work in so they’re paying local taxes,” Van Tassel said. “I like giving back to local causes, and I can do that through my business.”

Pam Gallo, owner of Posh Girls Boutique in downtown Morris, said shopping at small and local stores not only benefits the community, but the consumer, as well. 

“It’s important to support your local community, but who cares about that? People want to know what’s in it for them,” Gallo said. “What’s in it for the customer is they’re going to get unique items that they won’t find anywhere else.”

Van Tassel said consumers also can expect quality products and service from most small businesses.

“When you shop with us, you won’t get a mass-produced product that maybe isn’t well-made,” Van Tassel said. 

Events such as Small Business Saturday are key to the success of small businesses because they build awareness, said Laurie Belinski, owner of Letty Mae’s Tea Room in Morris, which employs 19 people.

Belinski said her relationship with other businesses also is crucial to her business’s success, as she depends on their support and recommendations.

“The small business owners have to work twice as hard, it seems, to compete with the big-box businesses,” Belinski said. “The more we help each other and stick together, the better off we are.”

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