Support hometown businesses

You've got to support those businesses that support you. I'm amazed how that concept is so easily lost on people. And yes, I'm getting ready to get on my "shop at home" soapbox, so if you're tired of this sermon, you can turn the page now — I've given fair warning.

I was attending a function in another state and was eavesdropping on a couple of women who were sitting nearby while we waited for the session to begin. As the conversation went on, the pair lamented about how the local small-town businesses were unwilling to lend sponsorship to their upcoming event. They ran down their laundry lists of items purchased and several big, national warehouse stores were mentioned as they tallied the totals for reimbursement.

And I couldn't help but shake my head. I had passed several local establishments on my way into town that certainly would have carried their supplies — yet they hadn't made purchases there.

Is it any wonder they couldn't get the assistance or sponsorship dollars they were seeking? And it's not unique to this state either. I sit on several boards and when they are planning functions, too many times those volunteering for the job of buying food or other items mention going over to the next large community for items that could very well be found right at home.

And, for those who give the excuse of cost, I would be willing to bet that if you figured in $3 gas — the final price tag probably isn't much different. Yet the impact that those dollars make in a small-town, independently owned and operated business is huge.

While most people only think about the specific item being purchased, one should stop and consider the chain of dollars that flows through the business — the high school kid stocking shelves, the farm wife working in the business office, the truck that brought the goods to the store, the landscape crew maintaining the grounds and pushing snow from the parking lot during the winter.

That doesn't even take into consideration the convenience for the older generation being able to shop for their needs without traveling to a larger, faster-paced community where they could easily be involved in a fender-bender as they negotiate the increased speed of traffic and congestion of parking lots.

Just something to think about as we go about the ins and outs of living in rural America. We lament that economic activity is limited in our small communities, but yet we don't do all possible to make things better. I'd hope that some of that "economic stimulus" money ends up circulating through the small shops that dot the landscape.

So the next time you contemplate making a purchase, think about where your dollars would do the most good. When you do, we all win.

— Beth Riffel

Editor's note: Beth (Gaines) Riffel is a 1987 graduate of Peabody High School. She writes a weekly opinion column called "Over the Barn Gate" in the Grass and Grain, an agriculture publication.