BY SHERI TRUSTY
When Laura Wagner of Cleveland and her daughter, Jessica Hoover of Catawba, shopped at Unique in downtown Port Clinton on Nov. 25, they didn’t realize it was Small Business Saturday, a national effort to encourage shopping at locally owned businesses. They were, Wagner said, just doing their thing.
“I love small businesses because they have unique things you’re not going to find in a bigger store or online,” Wagner said.
Hoover grew up in Chardon, where she enjoyed shopping at the town square. Shopping in downtown Port Clinton brings back those long ago memories.
“I love that we have that here, too,” Hoover said. “It takes me back to my childhood.”
Online shopping and big box stores are a constant threat to small businesses, but Hoover said local shops create the opportunity to find distinctive and personal gifts. Small businesses don’t just offer out-of-the-box products; they also offer out-of-the-big-box shopping experiences. That makes them indispensable
“We need small businesses,” Wagner said. ““We always support small businesses. It’s our thing.”
Down the road from Unique, the Brick House was packed with customers watching the OSU-Michigan football game, and Yellow House Bakery was selling the few items left in their cases. Co-owner Jen Gatliff said many Ohio small businesses face competition from the big game on Small Business Saturday, but she and her husband, Drew Gatliff, focused on the game to help their business thrive.
They sold kolaches stuffed with sausage and cheese, and they baked sugar cookies topped with red and gray or blue and yellow sprinkles. Most of their customers arrived before the game to buy kolaches and cookies to enjoy at home while they watched TV.
“We had quite a few customers come through before 11 this morning. Our rolls sold out, and most of our kolaches sold out. We sold lots of cookies,” Jen said. “The game starts, and the downtown bars are packed, and then we get a lot of women and kids here.”
Supporting small businesses has value beyond finding unique products. Buying local keeps money local.
“You’re helping support our family,” said Kira Jones, owner of Moonwyck’s in downtown Port Clinton. “Every time you make a purchase, it goes toward the rent. None of us are becoming millionaires.”
Not only does money spent at a small business support a local family, but it also funds the local tax base that benefits the community. Often, the profits are spread further into the community as the business donates to community causes.
“We always give back to the community,” Jones said. “That’s something I’m proud of with all the small businesses here in downtown Port Clinton. We all do it, and at this time of year, there’s a lot of need.”
Among other causes, Moonwyck’s supports veterans, who receive 10-percent off their purchase every day, and the shop features a meditation room where locals can find a few minutes rest from daily stresses. They can listen to music, read a book, or just shut down for a little while. Those are the kinds of experiences shoppers will miss if they shop at a big box store or online.
Jones said that COVID shutdowns made consumers comfortable with shopping from their couch, and they sometimes forget about small businesses. Setting aside a day to rediscover local stores may help them remember that buying merchandise is more than just striking a few keys on a computer and watching for the delivery truck.
“You’ll find a very personal experience in any business in Port Clinton. We’re all friends. Customers become friends,” Jones said. “We all work really hard to make this a positive experience, a happy experience.”