Small is Big when It Comes to Shopping Locally

Janice Lane Palko

Founded in 2010, Small Business Saturday, is celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. In just a few short years, this event has been embraced by shoppers as a day to purchase holiday gifts while at the same time supporting local business owners and communities. In addition, it has made consumers aware of how important it is to shop locally. As you head out to do your holiday shopping, be sure to visit the following local businesses or shopping destinations and don’t forget to engage the services of your hometown service providers. It benefits them, our community and you.

Katie Petrovich, owner of Katie’s Clay Studio, located in Allison Park, stresses that shopping at a local, small business goes beyond increasing that business’s bottom line. “You can measure a culture by its art and its support of creative endeavors. Our studio bolsters the recreation sector of the local economy by providing robust and unique programs at reasonable prices. Katie’s Clay Studio doesn’t just impact the local economy with our classes or crafts, but also by providing local craftspeople a space to work in, teach from and sell their wares—we’re an important gathering place for ideas and people,” Katie said.  

Katie’s Clay Studio also gives patrons the opportunity of giving unique gifts. “We pride ourselves on helping our customers give meaningful, thoughtful and special gifts during the holidays. What could possibly say more about the love and appreciation the giver has for the receiver than a handmade gift?” she said.

While shopping online may be convenient, it lacks the personal touch. “Connection, personalization and service! Humans are social creatures that really benefit from connecting with one another over shared interests. We all crave customization and the personal attention that makes for a truly special shopping experience,” Katie said.

Small Business Saturday is important to service-based businesses too. “The holiday season is important to our business’s livelihood. We have not only all of our clients coming in to look nice for friends and family, but we also receive calls from people who haven’t been here before looking for last minute appointments before the holidays. This opens the door to potential new clients,” said Amy Pusateri, owner Fringe Beauty Lounge, Wexford. “The holidays are also great for our retail/sales. We are able to provide our great products and promotional deals to our clients and their families typically at a discounted rate. That allows them to buy more and still help boost our sales.”

When it comes to beauty products, you can’t beat getting advice from a professional. “Online shopping seems great because you don’t have to leave your house. However, all you really have to rely on is the product description and other customer reviews. It is beneficial to come into the store, so that we can not only see face-to-face your hair type, but it also allows us to create a custom shopping experience for our guests. When shopping in person, we are able to talk about lifestyle, how much time they may or may not spend on their hair, etc.  Then we make the appropriate recommendations based on knowledge and salon education,” said Amy.

Fringe Beauty Lounge also proves another benefit. “Our employees are locally sourced; we give jobs to local people in the area—and we pay our taxes,” Amy said.

Apropos in Allison Park touts that they have gift-giving perfected. That claim can only be made by a business that knows its customers well. “We really get to know our customers. Repeat customers are amazed how we get to know the people on their gift list and can not only choose the perfect gift, but in some cases, remind them of someone they may have forgotten for whom they previously purchased a gift,” said Jan Osterholm, owner of Apropos. The store stocks more than four dozen name-brand items. “We try to buy as much as we can locally from inventory to supplies.  Supporting local business helps to keep local people employed, and local business owners tend to ‘recycle’ money back into the local community,” said Jan.

Shopping in-person allows a shopper to examine a piece to see if it is the right color, style or quality. “It is nice to see and feel pieces as sometimes the quality or color can be misrepresented online. The right photography can hide flaws that seeing an item in person cannot,” Jan said.

Shopping locally is all about connecting with customers. “Our customers become our friends. We get to know their families, special occasions and their specific needs. In some cases, it is finding that perfect gift and sometimes it is just for the conversation or a shoulder to cry on. Recently, I have been asked everything from a specific recipe to a recommendation for a doctor,” said Jan.

The Streets of Cranberry provides a shopping experience to holiday shoppers. You can’t find the perfect gift and have an amazing meal when you shop online, but you can when you head to The Streets of Cranberry. “Shopping and dining locally is virtually like investing in your own community, keeping tax dollars in the area where you live. Shopping online will never be able to replicate the advantages of seeing, feeling and trying on the merchandise or receiving personalized service from a knowledgeable sales person. And those tax dollars go right back to benefit your community,” said Lisa Alexander, Managing Agent, for The Streets of Cranberry. “Police, fire, ambulance roads, community centers and parks flourish with the addition of these tax dollars. Local business owners and employees are your neighbors, friends and parents of your daughter’s soccer teammates—your business helps support their livelihood,” said Lisa.

“At The Streets of Cranberry, we value and appreciate our guests all throughout the year. Most customer’s gift needs occur during this time of year, so you will find our stores’ community spirit, helpful gift suggestions and warm hospitality in evidence throughout the center this season,” she said.

“So many business owners are in business because they love what they do, and that passion comes across in their interactions with customers. They will help you with buying decisions, give honest opinions, accessorize, and make you feel valued—you can’t get that ordering online. It’s all about the experience in shopping in their store; as was once said, ‘You may not remember what someone said, but you will always remember how they made you feel,’” said Lisa.

When you are engaging service people to come into your home, you want to be sure that the people are reputable. “The advantage of using our company is that we are a locally owned franchise with the backing of the Sears brand,” said Greg Heibert, owner, Sears Homes Services, a carpet, air duct, upholstery, tile cleaning and garage door repair company. “Our busiest time of the years is around the holidays as everyone wants to clean and make their home smell fresh,” said Greg. “I live in Wexford, and it is important that you can trust whomever comes into your home. We have the backing of the Sears brand along with my personal guarantee that we care for all customers and will do whatever we can to make sure they are satisfied.” Sears Home Services is the third ranked Sears franchise in customer service in the entire country. “All of our technicians are employees, we use no sub-contractors, and I would trust them in my home. We employ over 50 people in the Pittsburgh area, and our employees help the local economy as they spend their hard-earned money on other products and service,” Greg said.  Sears Homes Services takes pride in their work. “We have been in business since 2001. We have survived a loss of everything to a flood in 2004 and a fire in 2014, so we are really used to perseverance and hard work. We have been blessed by God to continue to provide great service to our customers.”

When it comes to dining, locally owned is as important to a community as is locally sourced produce is to a menu. “We are really pleased to provide a place where families, co-workers and friends can sit down together and enjoy a delicious meal,” said Gordon Sheffer, owner, Waffles, INCaffeinated, in Wexford, “While many of our customers are local, just as often, we are a central place for those from out-of-town to meet,” said Gordon. “Not only do we provide local employment opportunities whether for part-time, high school or college students or culinary professionals, but businesses around us prosper as our customers shop them while waiting for their parties to arrive, waiting for seating or taking time to enjoy what else the locale has to offer,” he said.

Waffles, INCaffeinated prides itself on its exquisitely wicked waffles. “In addition to providing delicious food for guests and local businesses and jobs, Waffles INCaffeinated injects tax dollars into the local community. We also provide a unique dining atmosphere and menu compared to chain or box restaurants,” said Gordon. “We solicit feedback from our customers, often using their suggestions, and implement them in new dishes or improved services. We feel this contributes to your dining experience.”

Waffles, INCaffeinated also knows that they need to be flexible, that people are pressed for time. Therefore, they will introduce an online ordering system in 2018. “As a locally owned business, we wish to be in touch with our customers’ needs and desire, and strive to make dining on Waffles, INCaffeinated’s exquisitely wicked waffles, whether in our restaurant or at home, a delicious and enthralling experience!” Gordon said.

“Being an entrepreneur during the holiday season allows us to give personal attention to men and women, young and old, when they are looking for that one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted gift,” said Carolyn

Dorazio, owner of Art Expose, located in the Village of Old Wexford. “We serve refreshments and encourage our shoppers to take their time. In the world of crowded malls, people are looking for charm and nostalgia, and we are thrilled to be located in such a historic area where we patronize and support each other’s businesses,” the owner said.

In addition to providing a pleasant shopping experience, Art Expose allows you to examine merchandise, not just view a photo online. “Our shoppers can use all of their senses when selecting a gift, and we know our customers by name. We provide the kind of assistance when selecting a gift that is like having a concierge. You can’t get that from a large chain store,” Carolyn said.

“The entire holiday season is very important to us as a business, but most importantly we’re busy enjoying having our guests spend time with their friends and family, and THAT is what makes the holiday season for us,” said Amanda Lee, owner, Painting with a Twist, Wexford.

corporate painting with Painting with a Twist

The benefits to the community from Painting with a Twist ripple out from there. “We impact the local economy in a very positive way. Our guests are coming out to have a good time and relax or party for the event, so that includes lots of good food and drinks, presents to friends who are reuniting, going out and spending the day in the local community eating and shopping, making an entire day or evening of it,” said Amanda.

Painting with a Twist also supports others in the community. “We are strong supporters of our local business community as well. Anything and everything we can purchase in the immediate surrounding area, we do to support local business owners. We also offer free advertising for anyone who asks with a scrolling ad on our TV monitors. Everyone from our favorite pizza place to the handyman down the street is actively mentioned to our guests. We also keep local business information on hand in the studio, so if a guest needs a recommendation or sees the business ad, we are able to provide a business card or flyer to help them remember the business they asked about,” said Amanda.

Painting with a Twist also prides itself on its personal touch. “Having personal contact with a local business owner is like having a gold card for service and experience. The internet doesn’t care how your day is, or remember your child is on a mission trip to Peru, or asks if your sister had the baby yet, or remembers for whatever reason you were in a class two years ago and painted a snowman. Local business owners have a passion for what they are doing, and it shows in the way their customers or guests are treated. If we’ve seen you enough times, chances are likely you get a hug when you walk in or at the very least, our faces lighting up with the biggest smile ever. And it’s not because you came back and spent money, it’s because returning to see us again is the biggest compliment you can give anyone about the time they invest in their passion to make your experience or service memorable,” said Amanda.

Some local businesses have been serving customers for decades and have proven to be cornerstones in the community. “Mathew Jewelers employs 13 people who eat and shop locally. Plus, our 70- year- old business hopefully attracts our customers to also shop and eat locally. In addition, we support the community schools, parks, churches, clubs, fundraisers, parades, events etc.,” said Michelle Mathew, owner, Mathew Jewelers, which has two locations—Zelienople and Cranberry.

Customers enjoy the personal touch at Mathew Jewelers. “Our customers get to talk directly to the owners who have spent years in the business. We offer personal service and can offer a unique item–that is not something that you might find anywhere else,” Michelle said. “You get to speak to someone who has experience and can make decisions regarding your personal experience.”

At Mathew Jewelers, you not only can shop for exquisite gifts, but you also indirectly help yourself by helping to boost the local economy. “You help the business to thrive in a community, which in turn, makes it a more livable place. And it’s the local businesses that support the local organizations, sports teams, causes (etc.) with donations and voluntarism,” Michelle said.