Staying Close to Home

When you shop local, you don’t simply support a nearby entrepreneur.

Big Differences Come From Shopping Small

When you shop local, you don’t simply support a nearby entrepreneur. You’re also paying local laborers, supporting area causes and maintaining your town’s unique flourishes.

“If you are shopping local, you are keeping your dollars local. You’re supporting a family; you’re putting kids through college; you’re paying somebody’s mortgage,” said Beth Herendeen, owner of longtime downtown DeWitt florist Twiggies, which recently opened its new Old Town Lansing location this fall. “It’s such a trickle effect in communities that it’s essential to keep small businesses.

“They’re kind of the backbone of communities. Keeping them open, keeping them supported is really essential,” Herendeen added.

That’s always been true, but it’s especially critical now, as smaller local businesses more reliant on in-person sales have been hit hard by restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been brutal, the pandemic,” said Carolyn Hough-Miller, owner of Grand Ledge’s About the Home, a home furnishing “lifestyle” shop. “It really makes a huge difference when you shop local. It makes all the different in the world. A lot of times, we can perform faster than Amazon.

“I would urge everyone to reach out to their favorite local business this holiday season and show them some love, because it’s been very difficult for small businesses through this whole thing,” she said.

While local businesses are anchored on creating expectations through personalized service, some entrepreneurs used the pandemic as motivation to evolve how they do things while retaining personalized touches. Hough-Miller started working with customers through FaceTime, a video conferencing tool. Both she and Herendeen beefed up their online presences.

“We kind of pivoted,” Herendeen said. “It gave us an opportunity to set up a website and get ready to do e-commerce business online, where we could do porch deliveries” and other new services. “We broadened our horizons and actually gained clients during that time.”

But Herendeen acknowledged “my situation is a little different than what some other people’s may be.”

At Not So Shabby, Oh! So Chic in Jackson, a home décor and gift store, owner Michelle Moore said her customer base is “100% in-town.” So is her dedication to empowering customers.

“One of the greatest things we do is a woman may come in here because she just finished her chemotherapy and she wants to come in and treat herself to something to make herself feel good,” Moore said. “Same thing happens with classes (held by the shop). We have a group of women who are widows, and they get together and take classes, and it’s just the way we give the venue for people to feel good. You can’t get that online.”

In the end, if downtowns are to preserve their unique charms, local businesses need your help. Otherwise, we may see a resurgence of the “Walmart Effect” from years past, where big retailers sucked dollars — and retailers — out of city centers, leaving blight behind.

“If you want your local community to stay vibrant, you have to invest in that, just like anything else,” Hough-Miller said.


The Options of Going Local

Want to shop locally but are worried about the coronavirus? Don’t fret. Small-business owners can work with you to get you what you need and keep you feeling comfortable. Here’s some advice from businesspeople in the Greater Lansing region:

  • Safety comes first. Many small-business owners are maintaining social distancing, enforcing store occupancy limits and providing hand sanitizer to keep customers safe and spaced apart.
  • Call first. Small-shop owners may be more flexible than chain stores in accommodating shoppers through custom or special hours, creating improvised purchase pickup or delivery options, and whatever else work for both seller and buyer.
  • Check online. The pandemic has led many small businesses to start offering products through shop websites. Others are selling through eBay shops or listing deals via social media.


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