As we start the new year, and not to mention, a new decade, the timing has never been better for local residents to focus on small community businesses and support local merchants and establishments.
“Buy Local” is a phrase that has gained a great deal of attention and focus, particularly in the past decade as consumers are increasingly recognizing the positive economic impact of patronizing the merchants and businesses of their local community and neighborhood.
The Bronx is no exception when it comes to the inarguable valuable effects that supporting the small businesses in the area has on the community as a whole. Support for “buying local” specifically in the Borough has become top of mind thanks to the combined efforts of a large mega corporation and a committed Bronx entrepreneur.
According to Alexandra Maruri, founder of Bronx Historical Tours, “the future success of our beloved Bronx community is rooted deeply in the support our residents give in the form of their patronage to our local businesses. The more we reinvest locally with our dollars, the more we increase the opportunity for business expansion, which translates to more jobs and opportunities for Bronxites.”
This belief has been an integral part of how Ms. Maruri runs her local tour company, which combines education and exposure to the historic and cultural gems of The Bronx with awareness, appreciation and promotion of local merchants and restaurants which are a fundamental part of each and every one of her tours and a sense of social responsibility.
One event that has been enormously advantageous to the Buy Local initiative is the Amex Small Business Saturday®. This annual event, which just celebrated a decade of shining the light on shopping and supporting local community businesses across the country has created crucial and far-reaching awareness of the power consumers hold in helping their communities to thrive.
With the motto, “Shop Small,” Small Business Saturday® takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to Shop Small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses. Amex estimates that for every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., approximately 67 cents stays in the local community according to an Amex-commissioned 2018 Small Business Economic Impact Study on businesses with under 100 employees.
This year, during The 10th Annual Small Business Saturday, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $19.6 billion shopping at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday®.
Social media is another powerful tool that Ms. Maruri has and continues to utilize to drive home the value and necessity of supporting local Bronx businesses. “In 2013 I began using the key #supportthebronx to bring attention to supporting our small businesses and cultural institutions. I saw an opportunity by using social media to help The Bronx and promote the wonderful independent merchants throughout our neighborhoods who have and continue to be the backbone to The Bronx economy.”
The world of the independent business owner is not an easy one. With rising rents, competition from large corporate retailers and new businesses opening, small businesses struggle with increased costs and rapid employee turnover. Additionally, U.S. Tariffs imposed on certain products has put an added burden on local community merchants. Maruri suggests “Whether it’s creating a hashtag or promoting an initiative, if you can do anything to support small local business, this is one sure way to preserve local moms and pops in The Bronx.”
For established businesses, the pressure to stay up-to-date with the latest technology is more important than ever in order to compete with business newcomers and is imperative to survival so that they continue to thrive in the new tech savvy environment.
Further, navigating the new modern world of social media is a learned process, making efforts like Ms. Maruri vital. “I work with a lot of small businesses in The Bronx and one of the things I have noticed is that many of them are not yet on social media, making it difficult to get found. The hashtag (#supportthebronx) and any type of word of mouth referrals is important for these mom and pops to flourish.”
Keeping the money flowing back into the community enables a strong balance between long-time establishments and fresh and new businesses, bringing more opportunities for jobs and enabling the talent and upwardly mobile young people to stay and put down roots in the Borough. Maruri adds, “In the case of new businesses coming into the area from the outside, I always look for local hires, quality of products/good service and community inclusion to establish community support from the get go as well as a sense of respect.”
And what do the local businesses have to say about the Support The Bronx-Buy Local initiative?
“Supporting local is important because it builds community, it makes a big difference in the lives of small business owners, and it helps build strong neighborhoods with people who care about the social fabric of the area. Supporting local often means supporting someone you know, and that type of support goes much further than supporting a faceless corporation.”
- Mike Hamlett, Jr. , The Bronx Brand
“Charlie's Bar & Kitchen is by definition a local small business. We have no huge corporate sponsors or brands behind us, and we have grown and evolved based on the support of the South Bronx community. It has heavily informed our atmosphere and culture, and we always want to do what we can to give back. We work with neighboring businesses because we know that community-minded thinking protects and evolves the rich culture that has defined The Bronx.”
- Jalilah Byrd, Charlie's Bar & Kitchen
“More jobs will be created in your town, the community will prosper, and people will be more connected than ever to their own town.”
- Ezekiel Sierra, The Lobster Box
“I am a believer of the saying and concept, together we rise divided we fall. Supporting local promotes community awareness. It’s one of the more efficient ways that we can as a collective grow what we can each contribute to our own society. It is also a more sensible way to educate the up and coming generation of our already culturally rich community and why they should embrace it. Supporting local by attending community events has allowed us to meet very creative and genuine people who are also seeking authentic inspiration. As our name means Neighbors, we are big believers of tight knit community.”
- Omar Canales, Seis Vecinos
“It’s important to support local businesses, especially when they provide good products and services with a special personal touch.”
- Anthony Angrisani, Arthur Avenue Wine & Liquor
Till next time,
Elisa is a travel blogger and freelance writer. She is co-founder of TravelinCousins.com travel blog and writes a weekly column for ThisIsTheBronx.info.