Shop Local–Or Someday You Might Not Be Able To (Op-Ed)

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A new medical office building will soon open on Main Street in downtown Hellertown, on the site of the former Murray Motors car lot.

As a local business owner, whenever I have a choice of spending money at a large retail chain store or at a local or family-owned business, I invariably choose a local business, even if it costs a bit more. When you buy goods or services from a local business you are supporting your community as well as that business. Big box, big chain stores are solely driven by the need to provide dividends to shareholders. If sales are lagging, most won’t hesitate to close their doors and move on, regardless of the financial distress they will cause to their employees and their customers. (We have all heard about large businesses closing down, leaving customers with gift cards that are worthless because goods and/or services have not been provided.)

Every dollar that is spent in chain stores supports the corporations and does very little for the community that supports them. For example, in 2015 my business’s donations to the community were equal to the profits of the business. Everything from gift cards and T-shirts to cash and services was donated. The Saucon Valley community depends on its local establishments to support their fundraisers, arts programs, schools and local EMS.

Most people, however, just look for the cheapest and most convenient location to get what they need. Whether it is groceries, clothing or sporting goods, people will patronize a major distributor even if the quality of the products and service is lacking. Why not support a small business that relies on your patronage to survive and that values you as a customer?

When you visit a local, family-owned business you do more than just receive a better quality product along with superior customer service; you also support your community. It’s no wonder that we see landmark local businesses fading away and the properties that once housed them remaining vacant and dilapidated for years.

A new medical office building will soon open on Main Street in downtown Hellertown, on the site of the former Murray Motors car lot.

A new medical office building will soon open on Main Street in downtown Hellertown, on the site of the former Murray Motors car lot.

Using Hellertown as an example, until recently we had an empty movie theater that had been closed since 2002. We also had a family-owned car lot that was the place to go buy your family vehicle or service it sit empty for a time after its closing in 2013. These and other closures lower property values and reduce local tax revenue, resulting in higher taxes and fewer homeowners. As a community we continue to have conversations about “what should go there,” when in reality nothing comparable to what was there would ever survive. If the Sauconia movie theater had been renovated and reopened as a new theater, its days would have been numbered from the day it opened, because we as a community would rather support a national chain like the Carmike or Regal Cinemas.

Instead, we have seen it go through a beautiful renovation as a dental office and day spa, to which some in our community have said, “just what we need, another dental office.” In the case of the Murray Motors property, there was outrage that an office building was taking the place of a local commercial landmark. People have called it things like a “monstrosity” and an “eyesore.” If our community supported the businesses that support them, these locations that once added to the ambience of our small town would still be thriving. Instead we only have memories of the fresh donuts from the Hellertown Bakery, breakfast at Kasey Lynn’s and buying a local paper at the News Agency.

If we as a community continue to spend our hard-earned money at establishments that do nothing but support corporate executives, don’t be alarmed to see more vacant storefronts and a less desirable community.

So, next time you are contemplating dinner at a nice restaurant, hiring a personal trainer to help you achieve your fitness goals, or buying a new tractor to make your yard work easier, please think about where you live and who sponsored your child’s little league team, who donated money so the football team had programs for their games, and who provided refreshments for the local Relay For Life fundraiser.

Kevin Branco Head ShotKevin Branco is a personal trainer and the owner of Main Street Gym in Hellertown. Kevin Branco Head ShotHe is a 2004 graduate of Saucon Valley High School–where he lettered in football, track and field and basketball–and a 2008 graduate of Kutztown University, where he was a PSAC scholar-athlete and was awarded four varsity letters. Kevin has been recognized with The Morning Call’s Best of the Valley-Personal Trainer award (2014). He was recently inducted into the Lehigh Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

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