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Retailers stress importance of local holiday shopping

Lauri Keitel stands by wrapped Christmas gifts at the Cow’s Outside/Buffalo Billfold Company in downtown Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — In just a matter of days, the holiday shopping season will be in full swing as people head out to find the best gifts and best buys for their friends and family.

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Everybody knows about Black Friday, but might not be aware that it is followed by Small Business Saturday, a promotion started by American Express to draw attention to shopping at small local businesses on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.

The importance and advantages of shopping local small businesses are evident to Worthington’s retail community.

“It’s important to support our community if we want to grow and thrive,” said Brenda Hurlbut, owner of Ax Photo on Oxford Street.

Ax not only offers photographic services, but also a selection of frames and gift items.

“My slogan has always been, ‘Friendly hometown service,’ and you don’t always get that down the road,” said Hurlbut.

Personalized service is one of the advantages touted by many local retailers.

“I think shopping local is all about personal customer service,” said Robyn Moser, a sales associate at The Stag in downtown Worthington. “Local stores can offer more — free gift wrapping, free gift boxes. And we may even know the recipient, which helps when it comes to sizes. We have customers who come in and pre-pick things out and send in their significant others to get them.”

Stores such as the Cow’s Outside/Buffalo Billfold Company in downtown Worthington can boast of a selection of merchandise that literally cannot be found anywhere else.

“No place else in the United States is there a leather shop in a town of 10,000 people,” said proprietor Bill Keitel, “and it is because of the unflagging patronage of this community and the surrounding area.”

“It’s cheaper to buy local, and your dollars stay in town,” chimed in employee Haley Moore. “Personally, what I like about shopping in town is if somebody comes in and says, ‘I’m shopping for so-and-so,’ we can tell them if they’ve already got something or have been looking at something.

“I also feel like we have the stuff that can be passed down to future generations, things like a piece of pipestone, or our products that can last 20 or 30 years, unique stuff,” added Moore.

Since she opened her storefront, Classy and Sassy, earlier this year on Oxford Street, Tanya Wagner has become more conscious of the importance of shopping locally. She, too, tries to offer a selection of clothing and accessories that can’t be found elsewhere.

“When you go to Sioux Falls, you have to pay for the gas to get there, you have sales tax, and while you’re there, you’re going to spend money to go out to eat,” she noted. “By shopping locally, we keep that money here in our community. I want to support all the businesses here, even if I’m just buying a piece of gum. We have everything for everybody’s shopping needs, and here you have more one-on-one service, because it’s my customers who are my No. 1 priority.”

Another more recent addition to the local retail community is Decadent Décor, located in the strip mall on North McMillan Street. Michele Vander Meulen opened the doors of her shop just over a year ago in advance of the holiday season.

“Obviously, shopping locally is a no-brainer,” she said. “You need to keep money in the community.”

Vander Meulen prides herself on carrying merchandise that can’t be found anywhere else. If she doesn’t have what someone is looking for, she’s quick to send them to another local establishment that does.

“I try to refer people,” she said. “I don’t carry country stuff, but there’s Picket Fence that might have what they are looking for, so I’ll send them there.”

The Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce distributed the following information in advance of Small Business Saturday:

- Forty-seven percent of the local tax burden in Minnesota is paid by businesses. Without their support, everyone’s property taxes would be much higher.

- Spending $100 at a locally owned business keeps $68 in the local economy.

- Spending $100 at a non-locally owned business keeps $43 in the local economy

- Shopping online or out of town keeps $0 in the community.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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