Mountain Home is already in the midst of the Christmas season, but these next few weeks remain critical to shops and stores in our community who rely on the increase in local sales to make or exceed their annual profit margins.
Those who runs these shops and stores and the employees they hire are no strangers to any of us. They're our neighbors and friends that we regularly bump into throughout the year.
So let's show them that we really care about them and spend our money in their businesses versus taking our dollars elsewhere. In our quest to find those ideal Christmas presents, it's way too easy for us to rush out to a shopping mall or "big box" retailer in the Treasure Valley. But it's more meaningful if we choose to shop here instead.
And with our growing reliance on computer technology, it's even easier for us to do business with a global conglomerate that uses robots instead of actual people to pull our presents off a warehouse shelf and send them our way.
These large-scale merchants lack the small-town warmth and charm of a corner store business. In comparison, our "mom and pop shops" will not only welcome you warmly, but those who run those stores tend to know you by first name.
I can't remember anytime that I've stepped into a store in Boise where the employees could even venture a guess of who I was or whether I even lived in the same county. To them, I'm just another generic customer, and all they want to do is to separate me from the few dollars I have available in my wallet.
There's another problem with these large mega stores. They often have no clue regarding anything they sell.
I've had instances over the years where I wanted a particular electronic gadget or gizmo but had no idea how it worked or whether it was even compatible with anything I already owned. It turns out, a lot of these mega retailers don't know, either.
While the employees of a big box store know if the item in question is on their shelves, it's just one of a few hundred individual items they also keep in stock. I doubt they can keep up with all the unique quirks associated with each one.
I don't see that same problem with local stores. While they don't have a huge number of different products on their shelves, what they do carry is something they've often taken out of the box and actually tried out.
You're better off trusting the opinion of someone with firsthand knowledge of what they're selling versus the star ratings of the same product carried by some faceless online retailer. After all, you never know if a product gets a "thumb's down" on a Web site because someone out there was doing it out of spite (thinking it would be funny) or if the person even bothered to actually buy the item to begin with.
In the case of the latter, I've actually seen that happen when I was doing some research on a new telescope I wanted to see under my tree this Christmas. Based on some of the "thumbs down" comments I read, I wondered if those folks knew what a telescope actually did.
The message to shop local is something that the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce and the city's economic development office have continued to emphasize each year. Despite these ongoing efforts, it always seems that some people in this community want to turn a deaf ear and insist they do their shopping somewhere else.
Instead of a short drive to a store that has what they want in Mountain Home, some folks are willing to drive more than 90 miles round trip to some store in Boise for the same exact item, thinking they're going to save a few dollars.
But when you add in the amount of gasoline they burn in that trip, the time they end up spending driving back and forth, they really don't save a whole lot of money. Plus, if that sweater doesn't fit, the toy doesn't work or that computer or flat screen television is defective, you have to make a return trip back to the Treasure Valley, which is even more money out of your pocket.
Take it from someone that really hates driving on the interstate (even when the roads are clear), it's a lot less stressful buying something here than dealing with all the traffic and huge crowds up in the Treasure Valley. In less than five minutes here, I can get to the store in question, buy what I want and be on my way back home.
And don't even get me started on the absolute chaos you run into when trying to get into a mall or big name department store this time of year. That alone can give you an ulcer.
The walk from store to store in our downtown area is also a lot faster versus having to walk over several acres of asphalt in a mall parking lot before walking from one end of the mall to the other to get the same exact gift. And during the holidays, finding an open parking spot at a shopping mall is never guaranteed.
When you shop local, you're not only finishing your Christmas gift list, you're directly helping a local family by putting a few extra dollars in their cash register so they can continue to keep their doors open.
Doing business here ensures these owners can buy gifts for their children or loved ones and can afford other necessities that others often take for granted. These folks can now afford to enroll their children in local sports programs or help their kids pursue their dreams in music or to make their college aspirations possible.
In addition, there's always that chance of running into our friends in these stores and stopping for a minute to say "hello." Beyond family, our friends are among the greatest riches we can treasure.
The holiday season comes as our community continues to show signs that the economy in our small town is starting to improve. Let's continue to spread that message by giving these small shops and stores a few extra dollars this season.
Out of all the gifts we can possibly give this Christmas, giving these shops our support is perhaps they best one we can provide.
-- Brian S. Orban