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story.lead_photo.caption Don Hale

As the holiday season approaches, and the pressure of exchanging gifts devours our intentions of peaceful celebration with family, let me make a request: stop for just a minute. Place yourself in the shoes of a locally-owned retailer facing the challenges unique to 2020. We know the struggles this year has exposed to us, and we know that there is very little that compares to the loss of loved ones. However, to our community, locally owned business have become like loved ones.

Locally owned businesses don’t have the pleasure of relying on corporate assistance, a human resources department or a flashy advertising campaign to keep their doors open. Instead, many small business owners work tirelessly through daily struggles with employee issues, cash-flow, increasing taxes and regulations. Ask yourself, have the locally-owned hardware stores, flower shops, eateries and boutiques that line our Main Streets made our town stronger? What would our community look like if we depended solely on big box stores, national chains and online retailers?

Witness the challenges taking place in the newspaper industry; communities need information supplied by a local news source. Will Apple News and other media outlets fill the void of a hometown reporter covering a rash of local burglaries, a city council meeting or zoning variance hearing? No, we need home-owned businesses that are firmly rooted and tied to the things that make our communities distinctive.

Small businesses are a vital conduit of services and tax revenues. They are the backbone of our local economy, and this year, more than ever, they need our support. Regardless of where you live, you can make a difference. Choose with intention to make gift selections that can be found at a local retailer.

Surprise someone with an item not on their Amazon list, and avoid the mega sites built to host gift lists. Recall the things that bring pleasure to your friends, and then make a point to find them locally, or gift them with locally sourced items that you particularly love. If there are items not available in your community, purchase a gift card. Who knows, you may connect your hometown retailer with a new customer that comes back time and time again!

The lessons learned during 2020 should not be limited to a Zoom meeting. We need to remember how important relationships are to our health: both physical and mental. Let’s find solace in a year that has taken more than it has given. During this season of giving, find a way to restore confidence and dreams to your hometown-owned businesses. The return on your local investment may help keep Main Street vital and pay dividends to the next generation.

Don Hale is owner of The Diamond Agency, an El Dorado advertising agency and publisher of community guides Arkadelphia Life, El Dorado Insider and Magnolia Living.

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