We hear this statement a whole lot around the holidays. Slogans such as “shop local, support your city, small businesses need your help, etc” appear on your Facebook feed, email inbox, and banners around town. This year many local businesses even participated in Small Business Saturday. But with all of the one deal a day sites, and big business deals, why should you visit your local stores?
I will tell you why, because they care. That’s right, they honestly care about you and your outdoor experience. As an avid mountain biker I end up buying new products, bikes, and needing repairs pretty frequently. There’s only one shop I would go to though, and that’s Shenandoah Bicycle Company. For all of my outdoor gear it’s Blue Ridge Mountain Sports or Wilderness Voyagers.
When I first arrived at JMU in the fall of 2006 I knew I wanted to become part of the outdoor scene. The first sport that piqued my curiosity was biking, mountain biking to be exact. My trusty Motiv Groundpounder was in need of some love before I tackled my first Harrisonburg ride so I visited the local bike shop. When I walked through the door no one scoffed at my department store bike, an outcast among the high-end bicycles around it, no one gave me attitude, and everyone was offering help. Thomas Jenkins, part owner of SBC and local cycling advocate of Harrisonburg, helped me with my bike and ended up going on the ride just to make sure I did okay. Seven years later Thomas is still helping me, and I am still walking through SBC’s door.
What is even more important about local businesses is that they serve as a home base for the community. While many of your favorite local shops are a great place to, well, shop they are also staffed by the people you ride, hike, and camp with; your family in a sense. Think about how many times you have visited your favorite local store just to say hi or to catch up with a friend. I personally can’t even begin to count the number of workshops, hangouts, parties, and more that I have attended at SBC. In addition to fun hangouts, they are also many times at the forefront of advocacy, rallying their customers for trail protection, events, advocacy, and more.
Besides taking away the fact that I obviously love my local bike shop, I ask you to sit back for a few minutes and think about your favorite local store. Reflect on the service they have provided to you over the years, the ways they have repaid the community, all of the fun events that have either congregated at the store or taken place right on grounds, and if applicable all the beers you have had while shooting the stuff over gear. Now as you prepare to tackle the task of holiday shopping pay a visit to your local store. The service you will get can’t be rivaled, they will be there for you well after purchase, and hey you may even end up having a beer or two.