“Any support is appreciated,” Tanya Johnson, owner of Sky Boutique, said regarding shopping local. PHOTO BY KEELY LARSON

‘A whole ecosystem’

Shopping local Supports the local community

"Shopping local is just more important than ever,” Kate Tomkinson, owner of Trove, said considering the complications brought on by the coronavirus. “This season could be a make or break for a lot of businesses,” she continued.

This year, Small Business Saturday falls on Nov. 28. Founded by American Express in 2010 and cosponsored by the Small Business Administration (SBA) since 2011, the event is moving away from being focused on one, jam-packed shopping day in 2020. To account for the growing coronavirus cases nationwide, the pivot is to promoting local shopping through the holiday season. An American Express report from 2019 estimated that 95% of consumers who shopped small on Small Business Saturday wanted to do so consistently.

“What we’re doing, and what American Express is doing, is shopping small all season long, not just having one day to do it,” Caitlin Quisenberry, programming and events manager with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, said.

In a way, this pivot takes some stress off small businesses, Quisenberry said. Many are still navigating staying open during a pandemic, and not needing to come up with coronavirus safe Small Business Saturday plans may be a relief.

Tanya Johnson, owner of Sky Boutique, described herself as a planner and this year she has not been able to plan at the same level. “It’s hard to predict anything at this point,” she said.

As another way of supporting small businesses during the pandemic, the Chamber hosted a screening of a Grow with Google event focused on increasing small businesses’ online footprint. Even before the coronavirus, shopping online during the holiday season is a go-to for many. Giving small businesses the tools to develop their online platform is a safe way to support and grow local businesses.

Small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent; generate 70% more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail; and money spent at local business generates 3.5 times more wealth for the community than at a chain-owned store, according to the Chamber.

Those dollars spent locally filter back into the community in a variety of ways.

Quisenberry mentioned that Ace Hardware, while not local in the same sense as Choppers or the Hungry Moose, has change receptacles designated for the food bank and sponsors part of the golf tournament each year. Roxy’s consistently donates food for events ranging from Gallatin River cleanup days to the Friendsgiving feast.

Purchasing from those businesses supports those local activities. “That money is coming back locally,” Quisenberry said.

Tomkinson and her husband help the Rotary Club wrap and deliver presents during the holiday season. She also mentioned that local businesses are often asked to support every charity event or fundraiser that comes around. “Without us, where are they going to turn?” she asked.

“People who own businesses where they live care so much more about how that town is moving forward,” Quisenberry said. They may have children in the school district, be on a board, spend their spare time volunteering for conservation efforts or wrapping Christmas gifts.

“We’re one big community and I feel like that’s true—by supporting small businesses we’re supporting other organizations and the school and everything,” Johnson, who has a third grader and a toddler, said.

“Thinking about the planet, too. If you’re shopping local, you’re not polluting driving up and down the canyon or having more and more trucks coming up and down the canyon delivering packages,” Tomkinson said.

Big Sky is unique in the fact that it has these small, locally owned businesses but also would not operate in the same way without major players like the Big Sky Resort, the Yellowstone Club or the real estate companies.

Quisenberry mentioned at a past Big Sky Chamber of Commerce Community Building Series that Matt Kidd, managing director of CrossHarbor Capital Partners LLC, said the company feels like they are building community all the time, and recognizes the importance of the local flavor added by small businesses.

“It’s a whole ecosystem,” Quisenberry said.

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