How to support local businesses from a local business owner

Joe's Place Bookstore // Photo by Will Crooks for Upstate Business Magazine

This is a contributor-submitted Voices piece. We invite you to write for us. ​Learn how to share your voice here.

By: Mary and Alix Bernard – the owners of Joe’s Place, which offers a wide selection of rare and modern books, local art, coffees and more.

There is an interesting business trend that is happening and it’s not unique to Greenville.

We call it “I wish I had known.” It’s usually uttered when someone sees a local business shut its doors. People exclaim, “I wish I had known.” They say how much they loved that place, how sad they are that it closed and that they should have shopped there more. Then they mostly forget about the concept until the next local business closes.

Maybe the answer is to actually shop at some of the local places that you “like” on social media instead of lamenting after they close. As co-owners of Joe’s Place, a locally owned bookstore with a wine + coffee bar, we sometimes feel like we are on an island. We talk about our store throughout the community and are told, “I drive by that place all the time.”  A “drive by” is not going to help us stay in business. We know other small businesses are facing the same situation, so that makes a very large, but lonely island to be stuck on.

But more importantly, what happens to our community when we do not support local businesses?

We are fortunate to live in such a thriving region (the Upstate) that’s earned well-deserved national recognition as being a true gem of the Southeast.  Think about taking a stroll along Main Street in Greenville, or antiquing in Travelers Rest, or finding the perfect gifts in the shops along the Augusta Road business district. What if those businesses didn’t have local support? Would Morgan Square be as warm + inviting without as many occupied storefronts? Would Spartanburg be the same city we treasure now? Would our region have the same unique charms?

The answer is no, but people still do not support local business as much as they should and end up doing the “I wish I had known” shuffle.

You need to realize what supporting local business really means. For every dollar you spend in a locally owned Upstate business, an amazing 75 cents stays right here. That’s cash that flows through local employees, managers + owners and into other local businesses like Swamp Rabbit Grocery and Spinx. It buys cars from local dealerships. It buys homes constructed by local builders. It is our economic life blood.

Compare that scenario to this: For every dollar you spend with non-local online businesses, only one cent remains in the local economy. One penny vs. the 75 cents that will stay here.

So how can you help? Here are some suggestions that you may not have considered:

  • Pay for your merchandise using cash instead of a debit or credit card (credit card processing fees are high).
  • Think about what other options a business may have. For example, Joe’s Place is more than just a bookstore. We have coffee, wine, and food made with our own recipes. Plus, art by local artists.
  • We have a very unique space in our newly renovated 1920s home. Think of us when you want to host an event.
  • Bring your friends + visiting relatives to our stores this summer (many of us have air conditioning and parking).
  • Short on cash? You can write us a review online on social media or other sites.
  • Tell your friends and family about us. It’s not good for any of us to be the Upstate’s best kept secret.

It’s your choice on how to spend your money, but before you spend it, we do hope you’ll consider that every dollar you spend represents your opportunity to help a local business stay open, have a positive economic impact on our region and the Greenville lifestyle we’ve come to enjoy – and yes – value. And now “you know.”