by Stacey Sheehan
A few years back, after seeing The Silo Restaurant featured on television's "Man vs. Food," my husband and I set out to explore Lewiston. When we arrived at the Silo, the friendly staff, outstanding chicken sandwich, cold beer and the gorgeous sunset over the Niagara River opened a life-changing discussion. I remember saying that if this is the local standard, I just might need to stay and see what else Lewiston has to offer!
I was struck by the excitement and politeness of a Silo staff member, who excitedly announced that this was his first job, and that he was saving for a car. I marveled at how many other local kids had likely started there in the same spirit over the years, scooping up ice cream cones, so proud to have that first job to add to their developing resumes. I pictured my own son, standing in similar shoes in 16 years or so, and hoped he would have the same opportunity.
It was in very short time that we knew we stumbled upon a truly unique community. Lewiston emerged as a very different sort of place. Gorgeous landscape, a thriving festival scene, Artpark, jetboats - we found ourselves seizing every opportunity to visit and spend time here. We knew Lewiston was the place we wanted to be, and we set out to make it happen.
Now, happily settled into what I feel is the best community in the world, with the holidays fast approaching, it seems like the perfect time to stop and be thankful for what some may have come to take for granted here in Lewiston: our thriving, prospering, friendly community. But just how did Lewiston become the sort of place that makes someone want to uproot and relocate in order to be a part of it all? I thank our small business owners for that.
Because of the great people, top-notch customer service, and high-quality products coming out of Lewiston, we've gained respect, and notoriety, and our tourism appeal is growing at a staggering rate.
I am continually dazzled by the dedication and heart of each and every one of our local business owners: the stickers for our toddler when shopping at Warren's Village Hardware; the staff at Water Street Landing, who make every patron feel like an honored guest; the delicious complimentary scones we were gifted when picking up a birthday cake from the Village Bake Shoppe recently; the non-judgmental response when I walk into Tuscana Salon and Spa looking like I've not slept in years, and the great conversation I get to enjoy while I spend time there being brought back to life; the chai latte at Orange Cat, which can turn any day around - regardless of how it begins; The Portage House Motel, which lovingly provided my dying father with some very special adventures during what was to be his last summer of life. Walk down Center Street, open a door, step inside - this is something you won't see in every town in America. Charm, character, creative displays - it's welcoming; it's friendship; and it's products and services of unsurpassable quality!
It's plain to see that if Lewiston is the body, our small business owners are the heart.
Recently, when speaking with Lynn Oswald, director of the Niagara County Community College Small Business Development Center, she stressed the importance of making local shopping part of one's daily routine.
"Although 'Small Business Saturday' is a great concept, it's not enough to keep local businesses alive in our area. It is important to shop locally at every opportunity, not just during the holidays," she said.
The benefits of shopping locally extend past preserving our charming storefronts and lively economy. Studies show choosing to shop in your own community saves fuel, improves community morale, lessens crime, reduces our environmental footprint, results in a much better customer service experience than you would find at "big-box" stores, and increases our chance at walking away with not only a great purchase, but maybe even a new friend. Keeping our local businesses alive means that, when we need a job, we will have available positions waiting to be filled just outside our front doors.
According to The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, "in 2011, our region spent $68.4 billion on imports. If businesses had shifted just 1 percent of their spending to locally sourced products and services, nearly $700 million could have been reinvested into our region's economy."
If you love the fact that you can find everything you might possibly need without having to leave your community, then I ask you to please consider joining me in making shopping locally a way of life. Begin by purchasing local gift certificates this giving season, hire local contractors when required, or consult the pool of knowledgeable professionals we have at our fingertips when in need of service or representation. Tell a friend. Share your positive experiences on social media, like Facebook or Twitter, and let our business owners know we appreciate what they give to us through their hard work.
To the small business owners, and those of you working and shopping here alongside me, I'm thankful for you!
Stacey Sheehan is a Lewiston resident who specializes in marketing, advertising and small business development. She can be contacted via email at [email protected].