Small business owners: Shopping local important to area
NATCHEZ — When Christmas shopping, area business leaders say it is important to consider how local merchants make the Miss-Lou unique.
RRUS & Co. of Vidalia is celebrating 10 years of local support, but owner Una Knapp said she recently saw a post on social media that gave her some concern.
“Someone posted a comment, ‘This is Cyber Week, everyone should shop online,’” Knapp said. “I said, ‘If everyone did all of their shopping online, and all of the small businesses closed, what would the landscape look like? It would change the way our community looks. We would not have that small town feel.”
Knapp said small businesses, such as RRUS, which offers women’s clothing, accessories, home décor and gifts, are what makes the community unique.
“It sets us apart from the big chain stores,” Knapp said. “And another thing, we get to build relationships with each other. That gives us a sense of community and being a family.”
Over the years, Knapp said she has gotten to know her customers, who will also tell her what they are looking for.
“They let me know if they are looking for certain things, or if they see something in another area and wonder if we are carrying it,” Knapp said. “In a small town, I am able to call them up and say I’ve got something in you might want to come look at.
“People like to come in the store and touch it, see it and feel it.”
In downtown Natchez, Nest owner John Grady Burns said if you are looking for something in particular the town may not carry, merchants are receptive to requests.
“I think that if there is something you particularly like, and you wish you could buy it local, let the retailers know,” Burns said. “If you share that knowledge, when business owners go to market, they have ideas in mind of what locals are looking for.”
Burns said tourists make up 60 percent of the business at Nest, which offers seasonal blooming flowers, gifts, home décor and event planning, but that he thinks locals are starting to see what local businesses do for the community.
“Locals are starting to rethink the charm of having a downtown with local businesses,” Burns said. “Local businesses are able to support local people, local schools and benefits. It is a circle, and if we all support each other, it helps the town to be a better place.”
Seeing customers come into his shop and appreciating what he has to offer means the world to Burns, and the same is true of other shop owners, he said.
“Nothing makes me happier to know I have a happy customer,” Burns said. “I would love to invite anyone to come in and take a look.
“That goes for all local retailers. It really warms my heart when locals shop with us. It makes it feel like what we are doing is worth it.”
Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said local merchants help make a town, and they are what makes a town unique.
“If people did not shop local, you would have many, many more vacancies in the downtown area,” Russ said. “There would be many more dark spaces.”
On top of that, Russ said dollars spent in locally roll over seven to eight times, providing sales tax that helps keep taxes on property owners down.
“It goes to help reduce other expenses and services provided like roads, law enforcement and fire protection,” Russ said.
This Christmas season, Russ said he hopes people will give local retailers a chance before taking their dollars out of town.
“A lot of times in small shops downtown and throughout the community, the Christmas season can make up to 40-, 50- and even 60-percent of annual sales throughout the entire year,” he said. “It is important people recognize that and have a chance to shop at home.”
Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson said visistnatchez.org and christmasinnatchez.com offer people activities in the area as well as local shopping people might be interested in taking advantage of.
“We realize that people do shop out of town and they do shop online,” Hudson said. “But the big thing is to think of Natchez first. Money that is spent here stays here, and that makes a big difference.”
Hudson said people sometimes talk about the price being a big deal.
“Personally, I don’t see much of a difference,” she said. “I don’t have to travel and it is so much easier when you can touch it and feel it and see the quality.”
Local businesses are the heart of the community, Hudson said.
“We have so many unique shops that most small communities don’t have available,” Hudson said. “We have a lot of character and we want people locally, as well as visitors, to enjoy Natchez.”