People, and businesses, now have access to information like never before. But that’s not all, technology has helped to give a voice to those who may otherwise not have been heard, or seen.
As a previous Chamber of Commerce Director I understand that the most successful local economies are those that strike a balance between micro and macro.
But as a granddaughter of a small business owner I’ve grown to understand the countless ways that local businesses invest in and give to their communities.
I believe this helped to trigger my passion for Main Street and the “ma and pa” shop. Both seem to represent the character and flavor of any community. And, despite the challenges of recent decades, Main Street has held on.
Thankfully, there’s a resurgence of support for Main Street. Awareness about the importance of supporting all things local is spreading far and wide. In fact, it’s become a growing movement – made up of folks in search of authentic experiences, a connection to place or something that only a “ma and pa” can offer.
Ease of access to information has been key in this growing movement of support. Examples are found with the likes of The 3/50 Project, Independent We Stand, and Local Flavor to name only a few.
Along with ease of access to information via the internet, the utilization of social media has helped to level the playing field for our beloved “ma and pa” shops.
As a Community Relations Representative for Pioneer Public Television I’m given the opportunity to travel into many small communities. It has been a privilege and a pleasure meeting with small and large business owners, Chamber of Commerce Directors, Economic Development Authorities, etc.
I’ve learned much from these visits about what communities and/or businesses do that works and also of importance, what’s learned from the things that haven’t. I’ve also learned that these challenges and successes are shared – neither is unique to any single community.
I’ve seen the greatest examples of success exist where technology is embraced and the powers of social media are utilized.
Every “ma and pa” shop offers an experience all their own. All have a unique story and specialty that no one else has. And herein lies part of the beauty and value of social media. Shop owners can easily communicate their story and niche far and wide to reach greater numbers of folks.
Some of the great businesses I’ve come across combine the best of what social media has to offer, with online sales as well as creating that authentic experience for folks when they walk through the door.
Some great examples, not to mention great stories, exist at the River City Eatery in Windom, MN, Cocoa Avenue in Marshall, MN, and HGS Gallery in Luverne, MN.
This sort of thing, admittedly, may come easier to the newer generations of “ma and pa” shop owners, but it is something that all business owners should learn to embrace and utilize because it helps to create a culture of awareness and support, not to mention some great collaborative efforts amongst business owners and community organizations.
This is why outreach efforts are so important. And, the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is a great example of this. Businesses who need a little help in the social media or online sales department can simply stop in and visit with Mary. This is a great service to the business community.
Beyond that, outreach amongst individuals is so important. If you happen to have a knack for social media reach out and offer to help a business owner.
Such was the case for my Grandpa, who now in his eighties, has been in the jewelry business since 1958. Grandpa remains an integral part of that authentic experience when folks walk through the door of Korthuis Jewelry & Gifts, but his children and grandchildren are helping him in the technology department.
As an example, Vern’s collection of antique, vintage and estate pieces that make up Vern's Vintage was formerly a hidden gem - discovered only by those who walked in the door.
But by utilizing online sales and various forms of social media folks near and far are able to know his collection exists and shop from where ever they are at.
Social media has helped to level the playing field for Main Street. Now, it’s up to the rest of us to think and support local.