How To Save Your Small Business Community

Why it’s so important, now more than ever, to spend your money locally this holiday season.

By Leo Dillinger

Melissa Kelly Photography (

Five years ago, I wrote a piece for this very magazine entitled, “The Huge Impact of Small Business.” It was a manifesto of sorts encouraging readers to think twice about going straight to Amazon, department stores, and malls for their holiday shopping needs and consider spending their money locally at their favorite small businesses.
Fast-forward to 2020, small businesses encounter the same challenges but now, the stakes are much higher. As a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home orders that followed, small businesses across the country had no choice but to shut their doors this spring. Dine-in restaurants reverted to takeout and delivery models they never practiced before. Retail shops deemed “non-essential” relied on E-commerce and curbside pickup to stay afloat. Gyms and fitness studios turned to Zoom for online classes while barbershops and beauty salons went months without seeing a single client.

“Supporting local businesses at any time always means you are helping put food on tables, paying the mortgage, or investing in your neighbors. Now more than ever, in the face of COVID-19, supporting local means ensuring that Manayunk and Main Street stay vibrant and a destination that we are all proud to visit. It’s amazing to know where your money is going and what it’s supporting, and that’s only possible when you support small business!”

~Robert Ashford, Unity Yoga

Despite the state’s phased reopening and a limited number of available grants and forgivable loans, many small businesses still face the long road to recovery. Owners furloughed longtime employees or erased their jobs altogether. To add to the burden of lost revenue, investing in plexiglass barriers, temperature readers, and other personal protective equipment became additional out-of-pocket expenses to comply with health guidelines. And with each passing month, more and more small businesses have reached the difficult decision to permanently close their doors.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 30% of small businesses fail in their second year and roughly 50% close after five years. The pandemic has accelerated these statistics. Just over a decade ago, businesses already experienced their “once-in-a-lifetime” recession and found a way to persevere. While small business owners maintain their drive to endure by any means necessary, the future remains uncertain for many who are already operating on tight margins.

“Show the love and share the love! Keep your communities vibrant by supporting every small business you can. Shout them out on social media, give them five star reviews and tell all your friends and family to do the same. Together, we can save them. And another thing: Remember who sponsors your kids’ sports teams, dance recitals and school fundraisers. You don’t see the name of big box stores on their jerseys.”

~Tara Acosta, Sulimay’s Studio on Main

You might ask yourself “So what?” or “Why should I care?” Consider the enormous impact small businesses have on your community. They are job creators, many of whom hire locally giving young adults their very first jobs. Owners constantly give back to the neighborhoods where their businesses reside, whether it’s fundraising for nonprofits, donating time and resources, or sponsoring events and sports teams. They personify the community’s identity, some even becoming destinations for visitors to the area. They are the reasons for making a neighborhood worth living in.
Small business owners want to see their districts thrive. They made a conscious financial and personal investment in the areas where they choose to open a brick and mortar location. The money spent within small business communities is reciprocated to the rest of the community, whether it’s indirectly spent through state and local tax revenue or directly through business owners and employees spending their hard-earned dollars at neighboring businesses.

“The people that are employed by small businesses are at risk of losing their jobs. It seems so nihilistic, but it’s not. You’re going to see a lot of places, including independent restaurants, go under over the next six months. That’s why you need to support them. Because this is a tragic time in a low-margin business and they need your help. Whether it’s takeout, gift cards, or showing up if you’re comfortable showing up, they need your help.”

~Sean Coyle, The Goat’s Beard

Let’s also consider the small business owner. Their passion and creativity shine through every facet of their business. They relentlessly hustle through thick and thin, through highs and lows to ensure their patrons receive high-quality products and services. They know their regulars by name. They know what they like. Small businesses treat their customers like part of a big family.
So now the question that bears answering is “How can I support these small businesses?” Well, the obvious answer is to spend your money at small businesses you care about. You can purchase holiday gifts, buy gift cards, order takeout or delivery, and pay for a class or service.

“Small businesses are the life force of communities. They give the neighborhoods we live in both character and charm; they bring an energy and vitality to the streets; they invest their hard-earned dollars back into the community. Now more than ever, it’s so important to support the small businesses you love by shopping small, spreading the word to friends and family and doing your part to tag and share on social media. Even the smallest action can have the greatest impact.”

~Laura Anne Lamprou, LILA Philadelphia

Times are tough for a lot of people right now, but there are more ways to support small businesses beyond reaching for your wallet. Go on their social media pages and interact with their posts (like, comment, share). Better yet, give them a shout out on your own social media platforms to help spread the word. Head over to Yelp and Google and leave a positive yet sincere review. Subscribe to their email lists to stay up-to-date on their latest offerings. If you’re offline, a simple recommendation by word-of-mouth to friends and family could very well turn someone into a small business’s newest regular.

“Having been shut down for three to four months, many of us small business owners didn’t even know if we would be able to re-open and some sadly didn’t. It was only thanks to the online support of our customers during the shutdown that we were able to pull ourselves together and get our doors open again. Now, we hope to rebuild and be there for our customers during the magical time of the holiday season and appreciate them choosing to shop small to help keep our special little neighborhood alive and thriving.”

~Brandy Deieso, The Little Apple

Supporting a small business means supporting somebody’s vision. The owners and staff of independent shops, restaurants, fitness studios, barbershops, and salons pour all their time, resources, money, blood, sweat and tears into the business and yet, they still find a way to love the work they do at the end of the day. They provide an experience for their customers, which is something you can’t find at a big-box retailer or a chain restaurant. There are humans behind the scenes of these businesses, not shareholders or a board of directors. A small business is a true embodiment of the American Dream. So when you’re thinking about what to eat or where to make your holiday purchases this year, consider the underdogs within your community who are fighting for survival and rely on your support.