Shopping small isn’t about throwing money at the abstract idea of ​​local commerce.

According to Chris Lerch, founder of Hello 422, it’s about building the communities themselves and empowering real people to offer real value.

“When you think about your hometown, it’s really made up of small businesses,” Lerch said. “They’re owned by people from your community, the employees are people from your neighborhood, they contribute, they’re places you go with your family… They’re just ingrained.”

Downtown Pottstown businesses are ready for the holiday shopping season. (DONNA RAWINS – PHOTO MEDIANEWS GROUP)

Lerch, who is the director of marketing for 422 Sportsplex in Pottstown, launched Hello 422 in 2020 as a passion project during the pandemic shutdown to bring awareness to struggling small businesses.

His organization focuses on local shops along the 422 corridor, from Pottstown to Phoenixville.

A cornerstone of Hello 422’s efforts is the semi-annual Shop Small to Win Big event, where customers who spend $50 or more at local businesses can submit a receipt for a chance to win thousands of dollars in gift cards.

shop local 2022

Local sales totaled more than $230,000, according to Shop Small to Win Big Hello, Site 422.

“I think interest in small business has been renewed. We’ve all seen them struggle, influence or shut down…we’ve all seen it, and there’s a lot of great rallying,” Lerch said.

Lerch said one of his favorite places to visit during the holiday season is Bridge Street Chocolates in Phoenixville.

“They have such an amazing selection of different chocolates and candies that I always get stocking stuffers there,” Lerch said.

Small business gifts have an extra level of meaning, according to Lerch.

“It’s often something that’s made locally, a product that you can learn more about by talking to the business owner,” Lerch said. more significant”.

Businesses along the 600 block of Penn Avenue in downtown West Reading are ready for the official start of the holiday season.  (BILL UGRICH - NEWS MEDIA GROUP PHOTO)
Businesses along the 600 block of Penn Avenue in downtown West Reading are ready for the official start of the holiday season. (BILL UGRICH – NEWS MEDIA GROUP PHOTO)

According to Mark Ratcliffe, head of high street at the West Riding Community Regeneration Trust, the drive to shop local is not one-size-fits-all.

Ratcliffe’s organization leads the marketing and promotion of West Reading businesses and hosts annual events on Penn Avenue, including Arts on the Avenue and Autumn holidayin which tens of thousands took part.

“People are looking for that sense of community to see their friends and connect with people in a way that malls used to do,” Ratcliffe said of the reason people shop locally in the age of online shopping.

Ratcliffe said people are starting to realize that shopping local keeps money in the community – adding that studies have shown that 48% of money spent at local businesses is returned locally, compared to 14% at chain stores.

Small businesses also have a big economic impact — about half of the jobs in the U.S. are created by small businesses, Ratcliffe said.

Quality customer service is another draw to shopping locally, said Eileen Datrich, president of the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce, which serves Berks, Montgomery and Chester counties.

“When you want to call customer service, it’s a lot nicer to know that you’re getting a person on the other end, or you can go to a local business on your lunch break and have someone fix the problem,” Dotrich said.

shop local 2022
Laura Vernola, owner of Mont Clare Deli and Market in Upper Providence, in the kitchen of the new venture, which opened in September. Vernola also owns Steel City Coffee and Brewery in Phoenixville. (DONNA RAWINS – FILE PHOTO BY MEDIANEWS GROUP)

Offering a personal touch is how small businesses thrive, Dautrich said.

“(Small business owners) are your neighbors, they’re the parents of your kids’ soccer teammates, they sponsor the soccer jerseys,” Dotrich said. — When you remember these people in your community.”

In addition, small businesses create a sense of place, adding to the vibrancy and character of a community, said Aaron Gantz, senior director of economic development for the Greater Reading Chamber Association.

Ganz said Berks County’s five “main street” neighborhoods — Boyertown, Downtown Reading, Hamburg, Kutztown and West Reading — boast a variety of community art, as well as unique shops, restaurants and events.

Small Business Saturday

To draw attention to small businesses on weekends when big retailers are flooded with customers, several local municipalities and groups are hosting Small Business Saturday events this year.

The events offer shoppers additional rewards for visiting local stores on Saturday, November 26.

West Reading’s Small Business Saturday The event includes the distribution of ShopSmall bags and passports that can be stamped at participating businesses.

Shoppers whose passports are stamped by at least eight businesses can be entered into a prize draw, with the winner receiving a free ride in a holiday carriage for four.

A a similar event takes place in Hamburgwhere shoppers visiting 10 businesses and one restaurant can present their passports for a chance to win a basket of $25 gift cards from each participating business.

Dautrich said the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce is partnering with American Express as part of their Neighborhood Champion campaign, which encourages shoppers to frequent local businesses on Small Business Saturday.

Saturday’s Hello 422’s Shop Small event is a “nacho crawl,” Lerch said, featuring 21 restaurants along the 422 corridor.

“The idea is to have groups of people hop from restaurant to restaurant, order a plate of nachos, and go shopping in between meals,” Lerch said.

Also, Hello 422 holds another one Make small purchases to win the big drawfrom Nov. 25 to Dec. 4, with three grand prizes of $4,000 each in gift cards to 120 local businesses.

Other shop local initiatives

Lerch noted that initiatives to encourage small shopping are not limited to the holiday season.

He said one effort in Phoenixville involves closing two blocks of Bridge Street to vehicular traffic every weekend in the spring and early fall to allow patrons to dine outside and give businesses an outdoor space to display their products.

In Berks County, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance offers Shop Berks gift card that can be used at any business in Berks that accepts Mastercard.

Gantz said the card is designed to attract dollars and marketing to Berks County businesses and encourage the community to shop small.

Regardless of how shoppers choose to support local businesses, it sends a critical signal, said Bernard Daguenay, president and CEO of the General Chamber of Commerce.

“Local shops pay local taxes that help reduce the burden on residents. They are our neighbors and often employ local staff. They support local organizations, including nonprofits that provide social services, the arts and life-enhancing activities in our region,” said Dagennet. “Consumers who shop locally demonstrate that they care about their communities “.

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