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More important than ever to shop locally

What kind of a hometown would any of us have if our local businesses went away? That question is less hypothetical and more serious now than it has been in generations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the national economy, and many small businesses have been closed or on life support for months. We don’t throw the word “critical” around lightly, but it is critical that we patronize small, locally owned businesses as we buy gifts for our loved ones this holiday season.

It is also more fun. You get to talk to real, friendly people who can help you in your shopping. You are likely to discover gift ideas that had never occurred to you. You don’t have to spend so much time waiting in lines or driving. Plus, you save money on gas and shipping charges, and the money you spend stays in the local economy. It helps local people earn a living, and then they spend much of it locally as well, meaning the same dollars recirculate numerous times like economic lifeblood, instead of getting suctioned off to some corporate headquarters in Seattle or the Silicon Valley.

This is especially important now. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, in large part, the future of small business in America is on the line this month.

Granted, some managed to do well. We wrote this summer, for instance, about how boat shops, bike shops and garden centers thrived on people’s craving for safe outdoor activities. But many have not.

Spring was another critical time, but federal Paycheck Protection Plan loans helped many small businesses through, and extra unemployment assistance helped laid-off workers survive. Congress, however, has not passed a new round of economic aid as this new wave of the coronavirus crests.

Thank God, and human ingenuity, for vaccines that seem to be highly effective in trials so far, but we probably still have a month or more before the first of those becomes available to the masses. Meanwhile, there is reason to worry about the virus spread that may come from all the Thanksgiving gatherings Americans had this week. Many, thankfully, took a year off from dining with family and friends, but many did not. Thanksgiving meals are often multi-generational, which presents a reckless danger to older people who are more at risk of dying from the virus.

Our holiday shopping decisions, too, can endanger the businesses that are at highest risk in our current economic calamity. Even if we don’t intend to hurt them, our neglect can do just that.

If there is ever a year you opt to shop local instead of with online or chain-store giants, this should be it.

There are all kinds of gift options in the Tri-Lakes area. Look in the ads in the newspaper, for starters. Consider gift certificates to restaurants and retail stores, to be used either now (maybe for take-out food) or later when the COVID cloud lifts. Remember that local stores can order what they don’t have in stock. And hey, we bet there are people on your list who would appreciate a subscription to the Enterprise and/or Lake Placid News, right?

Another option, for family and friends who live elsewhere, is to shop at small businesses in their hometowns. Maybe a gift certificate to a child’s local toy or book store, or an adult’s favorite restaurant or coffee shop, is just the thing.

All we are saying is, try to shop locally first, before you order online or go to a big-box store. It is the best gift you can give yourself and your community.

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