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The original article can be found at http://www.columbuslocalnews.com/articles/2008/11/18/multiple_papers/opinion/columnists/alltomscol_20081117_1256pm_6.txt

Patronize local merchants this Christmas season


Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 1:46 PM EST

Shop Local. We took a day trip to Amish Country early in the fall, just as the leaves were beginning to turn. One of the things I enjoy most about driving up that way is passing through all the small towns and villages.

In Mount Vernon, the town square was crowded with shoppers attending what was probably one of the last Farmer's Markets of the season. Side streets were jammed with cars and people filed into the stores and restaurants. It was a busy Saturday morning.

In Loudonville, there was a huge Home Days celebration taking place on Main Street. It stretched from one end of the historic business district to the other. There were food vendors, carnival rides, and booths occupied by local groups and agencies. Volunteers were busy passing out information and greeting their neighbors.

Almost all of the stores had big sales going on. Shopping Local was definitely at work that day, bolstering customer counts -- and hopefully the revenues -- of those Main Street merchants.

Shop Local.

It's a term that comes to mind at holiday time, when the parades, the tree-lighting ceremonies, the sleigh rides and the Santa visits bring families and shoppers to the brightly-lit business districts of our Central Ohio communities.

As the 2008 holiday season arrives, it is important that we think first of our local retailers when we sit down to make our lists and check them twice.

Let's face it, the economy is tough right now. For many of our small retail businesses, Christmas is the season when they must ring up enough sales to keep staff on the payroll and the doors open for another year.

I have nothing against the Internet, regional malls and the "big-box" retailers. All play a role in the shopping routines of many of us.

But it is our main street merchants who create local jobs, who pay local taxes, who sponsor school events and little league sports teams, who greet you on a first-name basis, who are there to welcome you on the day of the Home Days carnival -- and, yes, the Pictures with Santa event.

These are the business owners who serve us hot chocolate and cookies, then go out that evening to serve on our community boards and commissions.

Shop Local.

Renee Kropat, executive director of Gallery 202 and an officer of the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association, says patronizing main street businesses (State Street, in this case) "is more than just about shopping. It's about having a place to go in your own town that will add to the holiday spirit."

Sales and traffic may be down, Kropat said. "But we are very lucky to have areas like Uptown Westerville. Here we have six to eight blocks of businesses that contain just about everything you could want or need. You can shop, have lunch, go to the bank. ... You can really get a sense of what it's like to live in a small town."

In fact, all of us are lucky because there are uptown and downtown shopping districts just like Westerville's all over Central Ohio. They are fun places to visit and they're not hard to find.

Local. Local. Local.

That has always been our mantra at Suburban News Publications when it comes to handling news.

This year -- perhaps more than ever before -- our hometown businesses need our support. Let's think of them, and let's thank them, by heading straight to main street when we go out to do our holiday shopping. Our mantra as consumers this Christmas season:

Shop Local. Shop Local. Shop Local.





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