Your feet and your credit card are still hurting after hitting all of the Black Friday deals.  You have been scanning the upcoming Cyber Monday deals on your computer.  But if you really want to do something to help out your community, make sure to stop by a small “mom and pop” store today on Small Business Saturday.  Small Business Saturday is a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for our community.  Owning and running your own business is one of the most difficult yet rewarding business experiences.  My dad owned his own business for 48 years and made a comfortable living for our family.  The hours are long and sometimes the rewards are few.  That’s why it is important not to forget your neighbors who make up some of the landscape of our communities with their businesses.

Some of my best memories about shopping during this time of the year involve heading “uptown” with my mom to hit all of the small shops that donned our city.  Now I say city, but the place I grew up in was about the size of Johnstown.  Each store seemed to have its own specialty items.  Mom’s favorite was a ladies clothing shop that specialized in petite sizes.  Side note…I DIDN’T get my mother’s genes!  But the ladies in there would always take the time to not only talk to her about all of the latest Main Street gossip, but also to help her decide which outfit looked best.  Most importantly, those ladies also knew who else had bought that same outfit and were very careful to make sure if the outfit was for a special event that mom was not wearing the same outfit as another woman going to that event.

Maybe what has been lost in the “big box store” experience is that personal customer service.  I know it would be impossible for the people at one of those stores to give anywhere near that kind of service, but that doesn’t mean customer service gets thrown out the window either.  In fact, there was a Buffalo family owned chain of stores that prided on giving that kind of personal service even though they had multiple departments and in some cases were more than one floor!  They had sales associates in each department who didn’t just complete your sales transaction.  They helped you to find that perfect item, brought you clothes to try on in the fitting room if the size you tried on wasn’t quite right or if they thought you might like a particular item to go with that outfit.  Unfortunately, as the bigger chains all came into Western New York, most all of those family owned chains closed up one by one.

However, those small stores who still provide a lot of these services I mentioned still exist on many Main Streets right here in our area.  The Internet has made it easier for these stores to be able to help accommodate their customers and reach out to those who have left the area. In fact, I was in an Italian restaurant which has incredible and unique pizza in the area.  For a price, you can have a “pie” shipped overnight anywhere in the lower 48!  Sometimes it’s that taste of home that can get us through a difficult week at the office or this time of year when we can’t get home to enjoy those delicacies in person.

Oh and a side note about my mom's favorite store back home.  Those ladies knew mom's size and her tastes.  So this time of year, my dad would go uptown and see the ladies, put a sum of money on the counter, and come back a day later and they would have everything boxed and wrapped.  Christmas morning when mom opened her presents, it was just as much of a surprise to my dad as it was my mom!  Mom may have had suspicions, but she never let on and loved it!  Oh what I wouldn't give to have one more Christmas morning with them and relive that experience...

So stop by a family owned small business in your town or go for a road trip and check out the mom and pop stores.  You may be pleasantly surprised that you can find the same items you were looking for at the big chains.  You may even get a cup of coffee and some great conversation along the way!