INDIANAPOLIS — It is time to make your list and check it twice for your holiday shopping.
This year, more than ever, it is important to try to shop small. WRTV visited small businesses in Johnson County as they continue to push through a tough economic year and hope you can help them rebound by starting your shopping with Small Business Saturday.
“It definitely is not my favorite year,” said Tauria Catlin, owner of Middle Davids Artisan Candles.
For many, this year has been tough.
“It has just been a constant rebalancing game,” said Debi Pierson, owner of Toodleydoo Toys in Franklin. “Refocusing. Thinking about new ways to do things.”
Small businesses got hit hard with the pandemic closures and restrictions, forcing many owners to do whatever they can to stay afloat.
“It is hard every day to come in every day and to come in and make up a new thing and how do I change my business from something that has been working into what fits into today’s society, so we are all under a lot of strain to adjust and pivot,” Catlin said.
Businesses had to get creative to try to keep the lights on for when they can have people back inside their businesses.
“Whatever we can do to continue to bring in funding is what we have to do,” said Rob Schilts, executive director of Franklin Heritage and The Historic Artcraft Theatre. “We just have to struggle through it.”
Without the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans, a lot of small businesses say they would not have been able to survive to this point.
“It was the most difficult year I have ever had to manage,” said Jim Klein, general manager at Ann’s Restaurant. “For us personally, it was more of a staffing issue. Trying to keep everyone that you wanted employed and then when we re-opened that available was available to be here. As long as they wanted to come back and felt comfortable, we retained all of our employees.”
The SBA is urging shoppers to continue to support them so these stores and restaurants can continue to stay in our communities.
“It is really important, if you want to see those small businesses stay in your community which you know they are the life blood in those communities,” said Stacey Poynter, SBA Indiana district director. “They hire folks locally, they support the local programs and sports teams. They are entrenched in these communities and we need them to survive. They employ 50% of all Hoosiers, small businesses.”
American Express predicts that 62% of small business owners need to see consumer spending back at pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year or they will not survive.
“We just go day by day,” said Stephanie Dixon, owner of the Whispering Willow Tree in Greenwood. “That’s all we can really do right now and see how things turn out for you.”
Shopping local is just a small price to pay for quality that you simply cannot find online.
“Considering that we are a full-service shop, you can’t get service online,” said Brandon Street, manager at Gray Goat Bicycle Company. “You can’t touch the product. You don’t have the communication with the other person that knows what they are doing. If you shop too much online, we might not be here anymore so who is going to service your bike.”
The most recent Yelp Local Economic Impact report shows that in the wake of COVID-19 changing the way stores and restaurant must operate, Yelp says they see both permanent and temporary closures rise across the nation, with 60% of those closed businesses not re-opening. That is almost 100,000 businesses that are now closed for good across the US.
“We are just really trying to say this has to be a way of life,” Pierson said. “If you love having a thriving community, a downtown shopping district, places to eat, you have to think of them first.”
Many Hoosier small businesses are asking shoppers this year to support their neighbors, shop small and put your community first to all rebound from this pandemic together.
“Part of it is your community,” Schilts said. “And the community getting together and saying this is an important place. This is something that we have gone to all our lives and we need to keep it going.”
Store managers and owners advise people to shop early this year, especially if you will have to order anything since supply chains and shipping times are slow with the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Small Business Saturday is celebrated the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“I would like everybody to know, every time they shop small, they really are encouraging the business owners in ways they may not realize,” Catlin said. “By responding to the efforts that we have made either on social media or advertising or coming in and actually shopping with us. It means the world to us.”