Editorial: Giving thanks for small-town businesses

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

There are many locally owned businesses in downtown Albion, with several in the historic Pratt and Day buildings. This photo was taken in 2014.

You wouldn’t think Black Friday would be so quiet on Main Street in small-town America, but it is. The shoppers head for the suburban malls, in a spending mood to cross off a lengthy Christmas checklist.

It was awfully quiet in downtown Albion today. I had to go to Main Street twice for errands and there wasn’t much traffic.

That should change tomorrow when Albion merchants will be part of the Shop Small movement around the country. The locally owned retail businesses don’t want all the dollars to go to the Big Box retailers and on-line sites, such as Amazon.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in Albion in 2006. It’s been a nearly a decade, and more chain stores have followed with new dollar stores, and expansions at Rite Aid and other chain-owned stores.

The Orleans County population has decreased during this time. There are fewer shoppers with more corporate-owned sites in Orleans. That makes it tough for the small-town businesses to survive. Many haven’t been able to make the businesses work following the chain store invasion.

Somehow, many of the independent merchants have stayed. People continue to open new businesses and work to retool their existing operations, to compete on Main Street with the chains that often set up on the perimeter of the villages, dodging taxes but having access to the population centers.

This week we’ve been publishing essays about life in Orleans County. We have a lot to be thankful for with so much nature and wildlife in the community, some upstart politicians willing to go against the establishment, hard-working and productive farms, and many citizens who volunteer to make the community better in many ways. We’ll publish another essay on Saturday with another thankful theme.

Today, we celebrate the locally owned businesses. Without them, the Orleans Hub wouldn’t exist. They advertise so we can pay our bills and continue to cover local news. We appreciate their support.

Photo by Tom Rivers

Downtown Medina has experienced a renaissance in the past decade with many new shops opening in the historic business district.

Downtown isn’t what it was a century ago, when the buildings were bustling with activity from the basements to the top floors. But there is still a good nucleus of merchants. They offer items you likely won’t see at Wal-Mart. The local stores often carry locally made products. Buying those items not only supports the store, but helps another local artisan/business owner.

Those sales generate sales tax, which reduces some of the burden on property taxes.

The local merchants also tend to be the ones that donate for the many benefits in the community, and buy the ads in the local yearbooks and school musical programs.

Many of these businesses provide employment for local residents.

Buying from a local business is a vote for a stronger and better community. If you want a vibrant downtown business district, you need to spend some money there. You vote with your wallet.

The business owners do much more than run their shops. Many have banded together in business organizations and they put on concerts, wine-tastings, Beggar’s Night, and numerous other activities to entice people to visit the stores and business districts, and also to provide some fun for the community.

Medina businesses are putting on their big Old Tyme Christmas celebration on Saturday, highlighted by the Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. Click here for a schedule of events. Albion merchants also have specials and raffles on Saturday.

The locally owned businesses aren’t just on Main Street. They operate out of houses, garages, in cooperatives (sharing space with others), and on state roads and country lanes.

The Orleans Hub appreciates their entrepreneurial spirit, and their efforts to make a stronger local community.