This article is an opinion.

As a mom, and a business owner of many years I’ve learned a thing or two watching how small businesses affect their local economy.  I’ve been a small business owner since I was 21 years old.  I have owned various businesses ranging from salon/spa services, legal process and notary services as well as retail and manufacturing.  Especially as a process server, who handled mainly foreclosure documents, I have always pondered on how some communities thrive and some struggle.  What I noticed about “common themes” in different areas and their high foreclosure rate (based on my own observance) was that communities with strong emphasis on independently owned local businesses had a lower foreclosure rate versus areas that had more chain and corporate influence.  So, what does this small business thing do for communities and what does a foreclosure rate have to do with anything?  

Here is what can happen with a strong emphasis on small locally owned business.  I put emphasis on locally owned business for a reason- these are foundation footings of any city’s local economy, and they are the friends and neighbors in that community.  Let’s say you have a “mom and pop” shop or restaurant in a particular city or town.  That family has chosen to bravely share their passion by going into business and sharing that passion with the community.  They seek to find a need and then fill that need.  Furthermore, they have employees.  When the townspeople patronize that business, they allow the business owners and their employees the opportunity to pay their bills, buy groceries from their local grocery, shop at other local stores, take their children to local doctors, dentists, and specialty practices, pay for school fees, sign up for local sports, donate to local churches, support local causes and participate in the community.  Then the owners and employees of the businesses that they, in turn, patronize can follow suit and support in the same and shop or eat at the “mom and pop” businesses in town to repeat the cycle.  Additionally, with the local sales generated, the municipality sales tax is then kept local as well to fund parks, recreation, infrastructure and the like. 

How does this affect foreclosure rate?  If the people of the community are all being supported through the cycle of small business ownership, employees, and the spider web of support it carries, then the same said people are financially supported enough to pay their mortgage or rent.  With the bulk of the spending kept in the immediate community as opposed to be sent out to larger, out of town-based entities, the community thrives.  This also affects support of local organizations and charities as well.  You can always bet that it’s locally owned businesses supporting, donating to and volunteering for various sports teams, school or church fundraising, charity auctions and organization events.  Good luck getting a major company like Amazon to donate to little Johnny’s soccer team or sweet Sarah’s cheer squad.  

There are a lot of fabulous shops, restaurants, and other unique businesses right here in town along with independently owned franchise stores.  Franchise stores are more prevalent than we might think so we don’t want to count them out either.  These are brave men and women who have invested in a corporate model but make no mistake, it’s their financial lives on the line.  Guntersville is quite special in that we have a lot of options to choose from for “big box” alternatives.  We can shop from home goods and  building supplies to advertising and marketing, we have it all right here in our back yard.

As a small shop owner, myself, it’s fascinating how many people come in and ask for donations from a store that they don’t shop in.   How exactly can you expect for small businesses to survive, much less donate, when local support is a struggle? My husband and I, like many of my Guntersville based businesses are always happy to support as many causes and organizations as we can because we believe in the power of local.  We have two kids in the local school system, and they are involved as well.  It would be futile for me not to support my local systems because the children of Guntersville are the ones who will take over for us one day!  They need to know the power of the love and support by their community.  If it is not felt, we can’t expect that they will want to stay on and keep our community strong.  

Truly, as a mom, wife, homemaker, I get the convenience of things like Amazon, Instacart, Walmart plus and Target.  (Moms go nuts over Target- it’s like a moth to a flame) However, as a citizen of a precious town like Guntersville in the current economic climate, I feel it is imperative to speak out, stand up and support small locally owned businesses, more than ever.  Guntersville is amazing, the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, and as a member of this community, as a taxpayer, homeowner, and business owner, I ask you to love on and support your friends and neighbors any chance you get!

Stephanie Hadwin is a business owner in Guntersville.

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