Downtown shopping adds a personal touch
As the traditional holiday shopping season begins, Josh Rosenberger is putting out a call to those in the county and beyond, encouraging them to visit Indiana Borough’s business district.
“What I would challenge people to do is come check us out for Christmas shopping and give us a try,” said Rosenberger, president of Downtown Indiana Inc., an organization dedicated to the improvement of Indiana Borough and its business sector.
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“Come downtown and discover or rediscover all the unique and charming places there are in Indiana to shop and dine,” he said.
With not only a variety of shops and eateries, but also streetscape renovations and holiday decorations, Rosenberger sees plenty of reasons to do just that.
“There are some really cool things down here, whether it’s retail or the food industry,” he said.
And if shoppers need one more good reason, he added, there’s the new Downtown Dollars program, which rolls out Saturday.
Scheduled to coincide with Small Business Saturday, the program offers shoppers credit based on purchases made at participating business district locations that they can use through Dec. 24.
At the heart of Indiana’s offerings — those of any small business district, for that matter — are the individuals behind the proverbial counter.
Noting that he has nothing against box stores and chains, Rosenberger added that while the prices may seem hard to beat, small businesses offer something very valuable to shoppers.
“Small businesses, they can offer you better service than you can get at any box store,” he said.
Local businesses make that happen every day, and Small Business Saturday invites people to make a point of patronizing them to find out for themselves, just one day after Black Friday.
Doing so can offer a break from the hectic hustle and bustle of the busiest shopping day of the year.
“Much of Black Friday and the holiday shopping, it’s become so commercialized,” Rosenberger said.
“I would challenge people to come back and go shopping on Small Business Saturday and experience the personalized attention.”
For Rosenberger, who owns The 700 Shop in Indiana, the attention that small local businesses offer can be especially helpful around the holidays.
A small business owner will go out of his or her way to make sure customers find exactly what they are looking for — and, he said, that personal touch goes a long way.
“They can give suggestions and make people’s Christmas shopping a lot easier,” he said.
To add to the ease, Indiana Borough officials have decided to offer free metered parking on Small Business Saturday, according to Jess Bowman, Downtown Indiana’s main street manager.
A number of downtown businesses are offering sales and special events, she said.
Downtown Indiana and its merchants have recognized Small Business Saturday for a number of years.
“The Small Business Saturday movement has been growing, and it’s been encouraging people to shop local and support local businesses,” Bowman said. “It’s touched many individuals and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
“The majority of the money stays local — and that, I think, is important, too.”
According to information from Downtown Indiana, researchers have found that twice the amount of money stays in a community when it’s used locally.
Rosenberger said he counts the borough as one of the lucky areas that were able to hold their own, business-wise, as trends changed several decades ago, with the advent of shopping malls, big box stores and retail chains.
Before then, every city and small town had their local butcher, shoemaker, hat maker and the like.
“Everybody knew everybody, and that’s the way it was,” he said.
While some may still bemoan the loss of “the good old days,” Rosenberger said he hears more and more shoppers praising the personal connections that can be made and the unique items that can be found at small local businesses.
Jim Struzzi, president of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce, sees the value of small business support, which makes an impact personally and locally.
“Shopping at our local retailers is essential for our community,” he said. “Not only does it help to support our friends and families, it keeps our economy viable.”
Small businesses countywide, he pointed out, have something unique to offer in the form of goods that you may not find anywhere else.
“So shopping locally helps everyone,” he said. “Money you spend here stays here, and you get something special as well.”
From Rosenberger’s perspective, Indiana Borough’s business people are working together to ensure that their unique offerings continue to be available to all.
“We’re all working toward the same goal,” he said. “We all work together; it’s a synergy.”
Overall, that goal means small business success. It also means, he said, making buyers feel safe and secure, and creating a shopping district that is inviting to both customers and new ventures.
In addition, shopping local fosters a greater sense of community.
“We all want to do it for the betterment of our town,” he said. “And the betterment of everything else.”
Small Business Stats
• Since the 1970s, small businesses have provided 55 percent of all jobs in the U.S.
• Small businesses in the U.S. have increased nearly 50 percent since 1982
• Some 8 million new jobs have been added by the small business sector since 1990
• Small businesses in the U.S. take up at least 20 billion square-feet of commercial space
• There are an estimated 23 million small businesses in the U.S.; they account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales
Source: U.S. Small Business Administration, www.sba.gov
Why Buy Local?
Downtown Indiana Inc. strongly encourages local shopping — and for good reason. Based on information from DI, when you patronize local businesses, these are a few of the things that happen:
• Local dollars stay in the community — twice as much, in fact, according to research. And that, in turn, keeps a local economy thriving.
• Small businesses help maintain community identity and prevent its streets from looking like those in a “ghost town” with empty storefronts or a “clone town” with the same old chains.
• Local employment increases, as do the relationships between customers and merchants.
• Better cash flow is created because more of the local businesses’ profit goes back into costs of running their business and, in turn, back into the community.
• Communities can withstand economic downturns because local spending, though it may decrease, keeps the dollars circulating within a community.
For more information, visit www.downtownindiana.org.