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Shop Small Saturday

Why there isn't just one reason to shop local



It isn't a challenge to find local shops in Bend. More than 350 small businesses are registered within the City and approximately 150 of those fill ground-level spaces dotting several downtown blocks with window displays filled with books, shiny jewelry, toys, antiques, and an endless list of products, according to the Downtown Bend Business Association Executive Director Rod Porsche.

And these retailers are hoping that if you're contemplating waddling to a store shortly after partaking in your Thanksgiving feast, you'd consider waiting until Saturday to shop at local businesses that set Bend apart from a community of big box stores.

The origins of Small Business Saturday/Shop Small Saturday is a marketing campaign founded by American Express, but the company wasn't interested in allowing only small businesses who accept their cards to participate.

"It's kind of interesting that a worldwide company would favor that, but American Express is accepted at a lot of small businesses, and so they saw it as a way to counteract what was happening on Black Friday and have that day," says Porsche.

The Shop Local Saturday movement began in 2010, and so far this year, 17,000 people have pledged to patronize local businesses on Nov. 28, according to the American Express website. However, this is the first year the Downtown Bend Business Association is sponsoring a Shop Small Saturday event by offering shopping passports.

"We're encouraging folks to get their passport stamped at over 10 businesses—there are over 50 that are participating—and then one lucky person will get a gift basket valued at over $2,000 and part of that gift basket is donations from these participating businesses."

Post recession, one local business that has survived hard times and the competition from online retailors has now been operating for 22 years. Local Joe proprietor A.J. Cohen says brick and mortar stores offer something that online shopping doesn't.

"You buy a pair of jeans and you're going to end up sending them back two or three times and was it worth saving $30 or whatever?" he says. But no matter where people shop, Cohen believes the most important aspect of shopping local is keeping money in the community. "If I'm using a plumber, [and] they're patronizing my business, I can now afford to pay the plumber, [but] if they take their money out of town...then its not recirculating through our community."

Porsche says keeping money local not only allows businesses to thrive—businesses are also more inclined to spend their profits here.

"Let's say if you spend a hundred dollars at a locally-owned business; $68 of those $100 stays within the community versus if you spend a hundred dollars at a chain, big box store, it's $43," he says. "So the owner of the business or the manager of the business they aren't in Atlanta, Georgia, or New York City; they're here. So they are buying ballet

lessons for their kids, they're doing their own shopping, and so it really impacts the community a lot more than if everybody shopped at big box stores."

But big box stores aren't necessarily bad for the community either, according to COCC Economics Professor Jon Wolf.

"What I've found over the last 25 years or so—whether it's Walmart or any of the big boxes—they seem to be catalysts for change," he says. "If a local business—which specializes in whatever product they're selling is doing well—I think the existence of a big box actually makes them do better. It's a catalyst for positive change."

Wolf says competition is competition, and as an economist he studies the choices consumers have. For example, he says he could save a few hundred dollars by buying snow tires online, but then he wouldn't have anyone to fix a flat or change his tires and believes that aspect of customer service is one of the reasons people shop locally.

"You can go to Deschutes Brewery and the owner's hanging out. You can go to Broken Top Bottle Shop and it's run by its owners," Wolf says. "Wouldn't you rather have something local where you could build that relationship?"

Another local business that has provided downtown Bend shoppers with customer service and wide selection of choices is Leapin' Lizards. Suzy Reininger and her husband Bob purchased the toy store in 2009, but she says the community is the reason the business survived the recession.

"We made sure that we had very fair pricing, specialty items, and diverse merchandising," she says. As the owner, she cares about what people are buying. Knowing the price range, age, and type of occasion helps Reininger cater to specific customer purchases. "We offer free gift wrapping at any dollar amount—and yes, I've wrapped a 75 cent mini animal many times—and we offer a very simple rewards program."

Even if you can't find that perfect holiday gift, Porsche says gift certificates to Bend's restaurants and breweries are also great options. He also adds that shopping downtown and helping the community feels good, and if you are looking for one more reason to spend money at a local business, Porsche says "[they] donate 250 percent more to local charities than non-locally owned businesses."

Bend business owners know their customers, and even if you're walking in for the first time, Cohen, Reininger, and their employees greet you and want to know how they can help you.

"The price can be the only factor," Porsche explains. "And if it was just one thing, then everyone would eat on the dollar menu from the fast food place because that's clearly the cheapest hamburger, but is it the best burger, is it locally sourced, and does it taste as good?"

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