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The Sharp Side on WORKIN’ WEEKENDS: Small Business (Insert ANY Day Here)

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Before I type anything else, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday – full of family, friends, and LOTS of food. It’s always one of my favorite times of year… mainly because of the food. What can I say – I’m a sucker for sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

12310572_1067905973233982_8854332696349368167_nIn all seriousness though, I was very lucky to have Thanksgiving off from WQAD and spent the day in the Chicago suburbs with Zach and my family. My cousins and their families came in from California and Texas, so it’s always wonderful to see them. One has two kids now and the other has one, so those three – plus my awesome nephew, Dean – make our get-togethers very energetic and exciting. It’s crazy to think that five years ago, I – ANGIE – was still THE BABY of the family. I really should have taken more advantage of that coveted title… which I am proud to say I held for 24 years.

Alas, after less than 24 hours in my hometown of Downers Grove – full of a Chicago Bears win (Da Bears!) and chasing around Zuno to make sure he didn’t knock over any kids or eat any Lincoln Logs – Zach and I drove back to the Quad Cities in the early morning hours on Black Friday so I could get to work by 9am. It was a whirlwind day and before I knew it, it was Saturday. However, it was not just any Saturday, which normally means a long day at work (Thanks, ABC College Football). It was Small Business Saturday and I had plans.

photo(6)I have become a HUGE fan of Cool Beanz Coffeehouse in the College Hill District of Rock Island. There’s a few reasons: 1) It’s right by Augustana College and the house I lived in my senior year, so it “takes me back”… 2) Cool Beanz wasn’t there when I was at Augie, so I feel like I have some catching up to do… 3) The owner of Cool Beanz is an Augie Alumnus who I just think is the coolest and one of the most ambitious people in our area… and 4) It’s a locally-owned small business in the Quad Cities – with lattes. and board games. and blueberry muffins.

Annette, the owner of Cool Beanz, planned a Small Business Saturday Scavenger Hunt to celebrate the annual shopping holiday and asked for my help, so I drove over there to do whatever I could for a couple of hours. I really wasn’t expecting much, but what I experienced warmed my heart and inspired this (kinda sappy) blog post.

I was stationed at Jackson’s Antiques, which is located in this beautiful house on 30th Street just north of 14th Avenue. I have to admit – I have NEVER heard of this store before, yet I’ve driven past it dozens, if not HUNDREDS, of times on my way to and from Augie, downtown Rock Island, and one of my best friend’s houses. That doesn’t matter, though. Emily (who owns and manages the store along with the rest of her family) was super friendly, the heat was on, and she had cookies… so basically I was happy as can be.

photo(5)My job was to hand out clues to any customers who came into the store and were participating in the scavenger hunt, so my two-hour shift was mostly spent slowly walking around… greeting people, making sure I didn’t break anything, and staying out of everyone’s way. I thought it was going to be a very quiet couple of hours, which I didn’t mind after all the activity of the last two days, but then the door opened.

Pastor Richard Priggie from Augie walked in. I see him from time to time around town, but it’s always nice to catch up with someone who (without them probably knowing) made a great impact on your college years. We had a great chat catching up, exchanged “Happy Holidays!” and before I realized it – the store was full of people.

They weren’t just shopping, though. They were smiling, which I’m beginning to realize doesn’t happen as much when we shop. They were having real conversations with each other, taking their time, appreciating the items around them, enjoying the immediate warmth and friendliness of a business that could only be family-owned and operated, locally created and loved.

There was not as much hustle and bustle, but instead, it was more… easy breezy, I guess you could say. There’s a want to not only shop at a small shop, but get to know the people who are there. You’re not fighting over the same item – there’s something for everyone. You’re not trying to get in and out as fast as possible – there’s too many other things to see. You’re not looking for a great deal – there’s a different kind of deal you’re making that’s way more important.

It’s a commitment to support the community you live in by shopping big in small places, to think twice when you’re out and about to see if a local store offers what you need instead of a chain store, to really understand the impact your dollars can make on someone else and their lives.

I should say that I do not want it to sound like I hate big box stores. Trust me – I love going into Target with only one thing on my list and coming out with 20 things that I don’t really need just as much as the next person. I will say though I am NOT in support of stores that are open on Thanksgiving (my father-in-law had to go into work at 4pm this year), but I can understand the reasoning… a little bit. I definitely believe communities need big businesses like that to better secure their economies.

They also need small businesses, though. The Quad Cities Chamber says small businesses drive 60-80% of new job growth and employ half of all private sector employees. If those stats aren’t enough, then think about a community without small businesses. Can you seriously imagine… downtown Moline without Lagomarcino’s? …the Village of East Davenport without Freddy’s Fritters (which just re-opened by the way after that fire back in May)? …LeClaire, Iowa without, well, everything that’s on Cody Road? These places – hidden gems, hot spots, and unique treasures – are the life of our communities. You only need to spend 15 minutes (no, not 15 seconds – there’s no doorbusters here) in one to realize that.

The numbers aren’t out yet for Small Business Saturday 2015, but on Small Business Saturday 2014, 88 million people shopped small – up 14.9% from Small Business Saturday 2013. What’s more, 83% of U.S. consumers say Small Business Saturday inspires them to #ShopSmall all year long (Source: Business Wire, in case you don’t believe me).

That is my goal of this post. It is really remarkable to see how the Small Business Saturday Initiative has grown since it was created in 2010 and I do hope it’s encouraging more people to #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal every single day of the year.

I fully intend to return to Jackson’s Antiques to do more shopping this holiday season and beyond (of course, there will be a stop at Cool Beanz for an All-Natural Pumpkin Spice Latte afterwards). It’s another place to add to my ever-growing list of places that only exist in the Quad Cities. It makes me very proud to live here… and as much as I love Target, my purchases can make an impact like no big box store can.

-A

I’d also like to remind everyone that Tuesday, December 1st is #GivingTuesday. For a list of non-profits in the Quad Cities, click here!