Shopping local encouraged after several chain stores close

With the closing of Macy’s and Pier One Imports, many Owensboro residents took to social media to ask for recommendations on where to buy clothing and gifts.

Mary-Katherine Maddox, who works at Studio Slant, posted a list of more than 40 local businesses and started a conversation of where gifts and clothing could still be purchased in Owensboro.

“I thought to myself, ‘Where you should have been shopping all along,” Maddox said of why she made the list of local stores, boutiques and shops.

Maddox said shopping local is her default and while she appreciates the jobs that chains provide, this town would not be what it is without the small business owners who dedicate their lives to the community.

“They donate, volunteer, collaborate, encourage other businesses, contribute to a community’s overall identity and personality,” she said.

Maddox is no stranger to local business as her dad, Jerry Weber, worked at Wetzel’s, a locally-owned grocery, before opening Weber’s Choice meat market, which closed in the early 2000s.

“I have seen literal blood, sweat and tears that go into making something special,” Maddox said. “It’s worth bypassing a coupon from a big box store if I can support a dream of a neighbor or friend.”

Recently several national stores have announced closings, closed or moved from south Frederica Street to Highway 54, but local, independent businesses said this hasn’t affected their foot traffic.

The Willow Tree owner Jacinta Smith said she believes Owensboro is large enough to support the kinds of stores that are closing.

“It’s sad when any business closes in our community,” Smith said. “I hate to think of stores closing and people losing their jobs.”

Donna Southard, owner of Crazy Me Gifts & Apparel said each closing has an effect on our community.

“We understand the convenience of shopping online but hope Owensboro continues to see the importance of shopping local,” Southard said.

Local shopper Lauren Patton said that over the years, she has begun to shop almost solely with local businesses, if possible. She believes that supporting local businesses is supporting friends and neighbors.

“With the closing of two major chains, I am excited for the expanded opportunity this will provide to the clothing boutiques and home decor business we have,” she said.

Darrell Higginbotham, Independence Bank’s Daviess County president said that the online shopping trend attributes to corporate stores “at the big box level” challenge to create a relationship with its customers.

“The growth in [local] boutiques and expansion here and also [Independence Bank] as a community bank show that locally-owned businesses build a relationship with clients. It’s not just a transaction,” he said.

The Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce has hosted Shop Small Saturday for several years, but when Independence Bank partnered with the chamber, the event went to the next level, according to Candance Brake, chamber president and CEO.

Higginbotham said to see the success of the shop local event, people just need to drive by Independence Bank and see the lines of people the morning the bags are handed out for the Shop Small Saturday and Local Love campaign.

“Most successfully-owned local businesses are part of the Chamber,” Higginbotham said, adding that being part of the chamber builds relationships among other businesses.

Higginbotham said every year, Owensboro sees national banks close locally, but local banks expand. Independence Bank recently added digital banking as a convenience to customers, but he adds it is not a replacement for creating true relationships with the customer.

For customers who shop strictly online, Higginbotham said that hosting shop local events aren’t going to change their minds, but people need to shop Owensboro first because they may find something better than what they were originally looking for and they are making an investment in their community.

“Our hearts go out to the employees with decades of service [to these stores],” Brake said.

But Brake is optimistic about the small business community and said that often it creates the space for someone to move forward, someone with a dream.

“This community is known to create big things from adversity,” Brake said.

By Marlys Mason The Owensboro Times