Shop! Shop! Shop! (and Dine!) Locally. On Small Business Saturday

Shop! Shop! Shop! (and Dine!) Locally. On Small Business Saturday

The State
November 26, 2014

By Michele Abraham and Elliott Cooper, Guest Columnists

The season of traditions is fast approaching: Thanksgiving, followed by the massive rush of Black Friday. Now there is a trifecta of traditions with the addition of Small Business Saturday.

Always two days after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday is a day to give thanks for the local entrepreneurs who make our communities unique and drive our economy. Local businesses offer personalized service and help our downtowns thrive, while local business owners are involved in their communities in various ways, from politics to charities and school events. And according to a 2012 American Booksellers Association-Civic Economics study of 10 U.S. communities, independent retailers pour 48 percent of their revenue back into the local economy, versus 14 percent for national chains.

The numbers are even more significant when it comes to dining. The study found that 65 percent of the revenue of independent restaurants gets recirculated locally — more than double that for national restaurant chains.

While it makes good economic sense to eat local, it’s also great for your sense of taste. The Midlands is experiencing an amazing food revolution, from the Saturday morning Soda City Market and City Roots Urban Farm to new microbreweries such as River Rat and Swamp Cabbage, to the 2 Fat 2 Fly food truck, star of its own reality TV show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

So while holiday shopping on Small Business Saturday, don’t fall into the unhealthy food-court trap. Celebrate South Carolina’s unique culinary culture by dining at local restaurants.

The federal Small Business Administration and its resource partner, the S.C. Small Business Development Centers, are proud to support the development of our local-food movement by giving entrepreneurs access to the funding and in-depth business consulting services that allow them to turn good food into great business.

Take Il Giorgione Pizzeria and Wine Bar on Devine Street, known simply as Il Gio to regulars and one the area’s best-loved Italian eateries. While researching the possibilities of restaurant ownership, founders Monica and George Kessler became clients of the Columbia-area development center, located downtown on Laurel Street. Part of a statewide network of 21 centers, the Columbia center offers free business consulting to anyone seeking to start, expand or save a small business. The Kesslers’ personal consultant reviewed their business plan and advised them on marketing and restaurant management strategies. Armed with our business advice and their own impeccable palates, the Kesslers opened Il Giorgione in September 2012 to immediate acclaim.

That same month, Marila and Tripp Turbyfill reopened Cafe Strudel at its new State Street location — a building they purchased and renovated with funding from an SBA-backed business loan. With nearly twice the space of its previous location, Cafe Strudel nearly doubled its tables, great news for its standing-room-only weekend brunch crowd. Improved kitchen facilities allowed the restaurant to expand its dinner menu to include items not available anywhere else in the area, such as fresh North Carolina grass-fed beef. Since opening in its current location, Cafe Strudel’s revenues have increased 45 percent and allowed the addition of new employees. By bringing more foot traffic to the area, the restaurant also has been a boon to other businesses on State Street.

In addition to support from SBA and the Small Business Development Center, local restaurants and retailers — and their customers — also have allies in local governments. For example, the city of Columbia has been embracing small businesses that make up the core of commerce in the city’s heart. To support more shopping and dining downtown, Columbia now offers free parking all day on Saturday and Sunday and every night.

This holiday season, give your local economy a gift: Shop small, eat local, and help grow our lively independent restaurant scene.

Ms. Abraham is state director of the S.C. Small Business Development Centers; Mr. Cooper is S.C. district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Contact them at mabraham@sc.edu or elliott.cooper@sba.gov.

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/11/26/3835583/abraham-copper-shop-shop-shop.html?sp=/99/168/#storylink=cpy