Local shops seek to create experiences, boost economy

Nov. 25—As shoppers make their trek to large box store chains looking for Black Friday deals, area small businesses want to remind people that they can have unique experiences today and Saturday at their shops while boosting the local economy.

"You're supporting a small local entrepreneur, and you're keeping your dollars local," said Lynda Suda, market manager at the 2nd Street Market in Dayton. "It's much more sustainable from an environmental standpoint."

Spending at local, independent small businesses puts 3.5 times as much money into the local economy as compared to shopping at a chain store, according to the American Independent Business Alliance, a nonprofit organization representing the interests of small businesses.

"As the community starts their holiday shopping season, there is no better place to turn than our Dayton area local businesses. By shopping small and local, you know that your dollars stay in the community to support economic development and our community members. We are looking forward to a strong holiday season here in the Dayton region as we wrap up the year," said Chris Kershner, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

The American Independent Business Alliance also found, on average, 48% of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14% of purchases at chain stores.

One way small businesses keep money in the local economy is through sourcing their goods through local artisans.

"We get our items from other small businesses," said Ed Dixon, owner of the Edward A. Dixon Gallery. "When you support one small business, sometimes you support several at the same time."

The Edward A. Dixon Gallery has faced a strain on the business with having to move its location a couple times during the pandemic, but Dixon has made it a priority to stay in downtown Dayton. The gallery has been at its current location at 222 North St. Clair St. since August. Dixon is also optimistic about shoppers turning out this holiday season.

"This holiday season, I still expect things to be a little lean, but all in all, I think people are positive," Dixon said.

With researchers at the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati forecasting approximately 57% of holiday shopping to be done online, stores are utilizing multiple avenues to get their goods to customers, including local small businesses like the Edward A. Dixon Gallery and Brim, a local hat shop.

"I think this season is going to be a tell tale sign if brick and mortar is back," said Emmatt James, assistant manager at Brim.

Brim has seen an uptick in its online orders, which are packaged from their storefront location at 464 East Fifth St. in Dayton. The store is operated by a team of four people, including James and shop owner Amelia O'Dowd, and they frequently draw in shoppers from outside of the Dayton region looking to experience the brick and mortar location.

"We actually get customers who drive to our store from Columbus, Indianapolis, Cleveland," James said. "The hat shop is so unique ... It's a whole different experience coming into Brim."

Local businesses are also using Small Business Saturday to kick off celebrating the holidays. Front Street, located at 1001 E. Second Street in Dayton, hosts a community of artisans who will be highlighting their artwork during its third annual Christkindl Market from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26. The indoor market will provide free selfies with Santa while also holding an indoor market at the largest community of artists, artisans, and small business owners in Dayton. The complex has over 150 tenants, which support over 250 artists, giving shoppers the chance the meet the people making the artwork there on display.

"You get to come see where it's made," said Samantha Mang, marketing director and event coordinator at Front Street. "And you're getting to meet the people who made it."

In Middletown, the holiday shopping season is about those small businesses and creating experiences for community members to enjoy the holiday spirit through its Holiday Whopla Celebration, which includes an ice skating rink, immersive light exhibits, heated igloos, and more.

Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown, Inc., created the Holiday Whopla nonprofit organization for brightening up the downtown through its eight-week long festival.

"This is a collaboration of volunteers and businesses because we are really promoting the fun, positive-ness of our downtown," Payne said. "We're just one piece of a larger effort to make downtown Middletown a destination."

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Get into the holiday spirit:

Five Rivers MetroParks' 2nd Street Market in Dayton will be holding a number of activities this season to get community members into the holiday spirit.

On Dec. 1 and again on Dec. 8, participants can create a holiday door decoration or centerpiece with upcycled skates from the MetroParks Ice Rink between 6-8 p.m. This is for all ages, and the cost is $25 per person.

Potted, native Christmas trees will be on sale at the market on Dec. 3 and Dec. 10. Trees will be 3-5 gallon trees, 2-4 feet tall. Choose from Hemlock, White Pine, White Spruce, Eastern Red Cedar, and Winterberry Holly, and receive instructions how to maintain them over the winter. Prices for trees start at $50 and up.

On Thursday, Dec. 15, the Artisan Night at the Market will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

For more information or to register for these events, visit: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/2nd-street-market/.