Some thoughts on our country of small businesses for today, November 28th, Small Business Saturday. It wasn’t until I was preparing to open my dream, a small shop filled with modern home and work goods that I became fully aware, we are a country of small businesses. My family was a mix of engineers and educators, employed at big companies and state school systems. Through the eyes of my own small business ambitions, I began to notice my urban landscape more closely. It was filled with salons, auto repair shops, bakeries, my favorite taqueria, a flower shop, women’s clothing boutiques, restaurants, a landmark bar with well-worn vinyl stools and live jazz every weekend, small service offices- lawyer, accountant, insurance agent. These independent spots far outnumbered the chain stores. I started noticing details of how things operated, conjuring up stories of why a lawyer would eschew the security of corporate retirement, group health care, and paid vacation to get up at 3 am each day and every holiday to bake. Or in the case of family businesses, I wondered whether generational expectations felt like a burden or a gift. I had fallen under the entrepreneurial spell and it continues to fill me with endless curiosity and inspiration.
Now, many years and a few ventures later, I have the profound pleasure of helping Isa and her growing creative studio expand from fine art into textiles and product design. It’s exciting in its vast possibility and frustrating in the way small business always is. There is no single playbook, decisions are often plagued with doubt and the opinions and advice from others are always abundant. It’s absolutely addictive.
As we planned our holiday season, it became increasingly important to me that we take a moment to highlight some of our neighborhood small businesses. The challenges they’ve faced this year are unlike any other in our lifetime. There will be many who simply can’t make their way to the other side. I’ve noticed the news and social media has given a great deal of attention, and all of it necessary, to save our restaurants. I’ve not heard the same war cry about our brick & mortar retail shops. And I have a theory. There was a time when shuttering mom and pop shops made headline news. Over time, with the rise of the internet and the conveniences afforded through technology we’ve become more comfortable, more accepting of these closures.
But here’s the thing: entrepreneurs are resilient. And creative. Often nimble and the good ones are always passionate. Remember when print was declared dead? The revival wasn't overnight but then there they were. Beautiful and numerous- new magazines, often highly curated to a specific audience and with a much heftier price tag. Those who were passionate about print found another way and created new business models.
Hope for the future
Brick and mortar shops will not go away but many will have to evolve to thrive. And from that, I am confident new experiences will arise because technology cannot replace impromptu, in-person human connections. Technology can’t hand a sugar cookie over the counter to a wide-eyed child in her parent’s arms. Technology can’t carry the dog food to your car and offer some samples for a fussy eater to try.
This is my war cry to you. Let’s save our brick and mortar shops. If you are not comfortable shopping in person, see if they have a website, or give them a call,\; most offer curbside pickup and will even ship your gifts. Purchase a gift card for future use. Be creative in your support because I know those who will survive are also doing just that.
With growing support & a deeper appreciation of all they provide to the community, our small businesses can both survive and thrive.
Just before posting, Isa sent me a NYT article titled "The Loneliness of One-Click Shopping" - it puts some staggering numbers behind the shifts in our retail economy and is a good read, find it here.
An incomplete and growing list of favorite "local" spots
We started a hotly edited* list with favorite Colorado brick and mortar shops and are asking you to share your go-to neighborhood shop, wherever that neighborhood might be. *There are so many others, we can't wait to add yours!
Pitkin County Dry Goods - longstanding and as current as ever
Meat & Cheese - farm shop with all of your picnic provisions
Basalt Printing & Art Supply - essential small town printing services with creative gifts and art supplies
Bristlecone Moutain Sports - mountain towns always have sporting good shops and this one is stellar
Jones & Co - home goods & clothing to inspire calm and serenity
Peppercorn - an institution - cooking store with so, so many cookbooks
True Nature Healing Arts - spa, classes, tea & cafe and a beautiful gift shop
The Launchpad - creative, community hub with artist made goods
Fancy Tiger Crafts - sewing classes and a huge array of the hippest fabric
Free Market - like a food hall but with ideas + the coolest brands
Bookworm - inviting and impossible to not spend an hour or more
Maker & Stitch - crafty goodness with a modern aesthetic
Wolverine Farm - handmade goods, letterpress print shop and publick house, pure genius