Being a small business owner meant being part of my community.

Sometimes I think the small mom and pop stores may appear to some folks to be just a little place with fewer choices. Perhaps they assume we are over-priced, or greedy, and we likely don’t have a fast food restaurant inside or arcade games to entertain the kids — so would they be wasting valuable time by shopping here? Certainly cannot offer the range of products that the big stores do, and as the “everything in one stop” mentality seems to be the thing these days, would they be compromising their shopping experience by coming in here?

Today I tried to put into words for someone how we — small business owners — are more than just a person at a register in a shop. Quite often we genuinely care about the people who live near us, the area and our customers. I mentioned how posters for local happenings, church events, fundraisers and other activities have always been welcome in my windows. We don’t have a policy banning such things, unlike a nearby Walgreens and Food Lion, which last summer would not even post fliers for a missing dog in the neighborhood. That bothered me and underscored again how the little things sometimes matter more to us independents than to a corporation. So I’m sharing with you an event from last year just to explain…..

The dog belonged to an elderly gentleman, and he was beside himself with worry over his beloved pet which had accidentally slipped out the door. I had become involved because I run the local lost and found pets site for this area. It’s an all-volunteer operation that helps guide owners through the process of what to do when their pet goes missing, and we have a great team of followers who often will go out to search and assist. I’m very grateful to all who give of their time to help make our site a “go to” resource for our community and we have aided with hundreds of pets over the years. On this particular day I’m mentioning, I’d been contacted by family members who were located out of state to tell me that their grandfather was frantic over his lost dog.

As I’d done many times before, in between my customers I spoke with Mr Borris, gave info and told him I’d make up the lost pet fliers for him. He drove over here to pick them up and then went to ask businesses around the area to please share. The two stores closest to his home were the best choices but when he called me later that afternoon, distraught and upset, he said they had refused to help by hanging the fliers. “Against company policy” they told him. Isn’t it nice when your local businesses go out of their way to lend a hand and yet the big chain can’t be involved.

The day wore on with no signs of the missing dog, who required medication and without it would likely soon have seizures. I suggested a search effort for early the next morning before I had to come into work but Mr Boris shook his head, pointing out she may not survive that long. He was losing hope and I was concerned. And then, about an hour later came the call we’d been waiting for; his dog was spotted in a neighbor’s yard; he was rushing to pick her up and going directly to the vet. She turned out to be in fairly good shape, received her medicine and was released. I love happy endings, but even more I rejoiced knowing how thrilled Mr Borris was to have his girl back home.

“Love your local” is something that I live by. It means to value, support and appreciate my town, and as a shop owner I’ve been able to participate in so many ways over the last 19 years. And it’s not just me — so many people just like myself do the same. They often know everything that goes on in their area and quietly help out or lend a hand when needed. Maybe it’s because while being self-employed we have the freedom and option to do so, or maybe we just care about our friends and neighbors. We are the heart and soul of our communities and when you choose to pass us by because the bigger stores have a McDonald’s inside, or will sell some items for a tiny bit less, you pass by what matters.

While my efforts will continue of course, once employed elsewhere my involvement will be limited. I will miss being such a part of this place; I will miss making a difference. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’ve had for almost half my life.