Our Opinion: Support your neighbors; spend your dollars at local, independent businesses

How many dollars will you drop on holiday shopping, and how many of them will be kept local?

Promoters of Small Business Saturday – a one-day-a-year campaign touting the benefits of supporting your community’s independent retail shops and businesses – urge you to put your money where it can pay significant dividends: in the pockets of your neighbors.

The message surely should resonate with area residents. After all, Main Street business districts in Luzerne, Dallas, Wilkes-Barre, Plymouth, Pittston and other communities throughout our region are mainly populated by mom-and-pop-type outfits reliant on consumers walking through the door – as opposed to clicking and cyber-carting.

Collectively, these establishments offer most everything from (organic) soup to (chocolate-covered) nuts. For a look at some of the options, see the Times Leader’s online Holiday Gift Guide and watch for it in print next month. On the hunt for hardware? Check. Artwork? Check. Unique dresses and clothing? Check. Jewelry? Yep, there are plenty of places locally – beyond the malls and big-box stores – that have bedazzling brooches, earrings and trinkets to tuck below the tree.

In the five years since Small Business Saturday debuted, plenty of area businesses latched on to the post-Thanksgiving promotion. They recognize it’s good for their bottom lines and the broader Northeastern Pennsylvania economy.

Participating communities around the nation are devising ways to heighten interest in the seasonal, shop-local blitz; some create scavenger hunts.

During this Saturday’s event, backers including the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association and the Diamond City Partnership hope to spur consumerism with the addition of activities that go beyond early bird sales. “We’re trying to position this as being an event day in downtown … larger than the individual discounts or promotions retailers may offer,” partnership Executive Director Larry Newman told the Times Leader.

For instance, the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts will open its lobby between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. for a holiday art market with local vendors. A corresponding Winter Wonderland film festival – featuring flicks including “Miracle on 34th Street” – will allow patrons to pay a small amount, about $5 per ticket, to see a holiday classic.

When we support our neighbors, and they return the favor, it really can be a wonderful life. Explore the businesses in your neighborhood this shopping season – and return to your favorites all year long.