As we enter another holiday season and our media is completely overtaken by corporations pushing the next big sale, it can be easy to overlook an easily accessible shopping option. However, visiting Grand Rapids businesses during the holidays is an excellent way to make sure you’re getting the best value for every dollar you spend. Small Business Saturday, on November 25th, is the perfect opportunity to support local businesses–like Brothers Leather, BOLDsocks, and Smokin Js — located in the Heartside Neighborhood.
“Support your local economy” continues to be a buzz phrase, especially during the holiday season. But exactly why is it so important to back these businesses all year round? “The more money that comes here, the more money stays here” says Adam Kail, owner of Brothers Leather Supply Co. In fact, a study done by Local First shows that out of $100 spent locally, $68 of that stays in the community. Located on the Avenue for the Arts near the corner of Fulton and Division, Brothers Leather Supply Co. specializes in locally designed, handmade leather goods. Kail believes that when local businesses succeed, communities thrive, and when a community thrives, more people want to live here. “That’s how you create a marketplace of ideas and competition,” Kail explains. Because when more money stays in a community, more local businesses pop up. And that competition “means better products for the consumer.”
But how can customers really know that they are getting the best products? Ryan Roff, Creative Director at BOLDsocks, has some advice for his shoppers: look into the company you’re buying from. He suggests that customers make sure that the business’s ethics and standards are in alignment with their own. “When buying products ethics can be a big conversation,” he explains. BOLDsocks has an important story to tell about their socks: members of the BOLDsocks team went to Columbia and documented the entire production process and made sure it was entirely ethical. And Roff urges other local businesses to communicate their stories to their consumers, “to get to generosity and transparency.”
It’s no secret that spending locally helps business owners, small businesses, and community members. However, it’s important to keep supporting the local economy year round. How can community members support local businesses without actually purchasing anything? Brian Keesbury from Smokin Js, an alternative lifestyle shop, says it’s all about word of mouth. “The number one thing is customer service,” Keesbury explains. “All the new people I see who come in hear about how nice our products are…from a friend.” More than just spreading the word about your favorite businesses, Keesbury believes it’s important for business owners to know each other, their businesses, and their backstories. “Introduce and learn about your neighbors,” he says, “that way if someone asks for recommendations, you can tell them about the right business.” When you support local businesses, you give back to the community by creating a community.
The Avenue for the Arts program supports these, and other local businesses, residents and nonprofits on South Division with business classes, a monthly workshop series, community engagement conversations, vending opportunities, and much more. The Avenue for the Arts [Space] is available to rent for educational programming, showcases local art, and hosts additional events such as Open Studio Nights. Sign up for the AFTA newsletter, like our Facebook page, and keep an eye on our Events Calendar for more awesome ways to engage with the thriving arts community here in Grand Rapids.
Because the Avenue is powered by volunteers, guest writers create our Rapidian content. Special thanks to Elizabeth Bush for her contribution of this piece. Elizabeth is an intern for the Learning Lab at the Avenue, Promotions Coordinator, a design student at Kendall College of Art and Design, and a loving plant mom.