Elzy Milling

Donnie Clark, member of the Elzy Milling & Trade ownership group, is grateful for the support his family received after opening their business in 2011. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part I of a 4-part series dedicated to helping our local small businesses bounce back from the impacts of the pandemic through shopping local. Future installments will publish on Nov. 26, Dec. 5 and Dec. 15.

Richland Source reporters are frequent flyers to various downtown eateries.

Relax, It's Just Coffee is on the morning beat, Two Cousins Pizza, The Coney Island Diner, and Athena Greek Restaurant are among the lunch haunts. Blackbird Bakery and Buckeye Bakery routinely get our cookie, cake and donut business. City Grille, DLX and Hudson & Essex are among the night-time dining options.

Every one of these spots is just a matter of steps from our location in downtown Mansfield. Also, every one of these shops is a small business owned by local folks, employing local people, and fueling our local economy.

Larry Phillips mug shot

Richland Source managing editor Larry Phillips has led the Source newsrooms since 2016. He has followed the OSU football team his entire life.

Small local retail and restaurants are vital to any thriving community. How vital? Keep reading.

What about the numbers?

The Financial Times reports that 4.7 million family-owned businesses employ 12.6 million employees nationwide.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses power the country’s economy. They account for 44% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, create two-thirds of net new jobs, and employ nearly half of America’s workforce.

Lendio.com reports that mom-and pop-businesses make up 54% of all small businesses in the United States.

Every dollar lent to a small business creates an average of $3.79 in gross economic output to local communities.

A study by the Institute for Local Self Reliance shows local restaurants return more than twice as much money per sales dollar to the local economy than national chains. In retail, it's even higher at three times more than national chains. Three. Hundred. Percent.

That doesn't take into account the workplace atmosphere, an essential element to local workers and customers.

According to Accurate.com, as many as 56% of employees at locally-owned firms have high commitment scores, which includes a sense of loyalty and the demonstration of commitment to the organization.

What's at stake?

Small businesses - especially retail, hospitality, and restaurants - got crushed by the pandemic. The holiday shopping season is the best chance many of them have to finish strong in 2021. If we want a strong economy, it’s time to turn out and support our friends and neighbors.

From the rise of “big-box” stores such as Walmart, and the almighty online Amazon, it's become more convenient to simply stay home and order online the goods and services we seek.

I know Jeff Bezos doesn't need any more of my money, but sometimes it takes a bit of thinking to find a local alternative. What I've found is that it's almost always worth it.

While many of us thoroughly enjoy Besta Fasta, Leaning Tower, Deschner's and the multitude of other local delicious pizza places, price and time often drive us to the national chains.

The same dynamic is in place for Uncle John's and The Buckeye Express, which feature far superior burgers to the usual fast-food suspects.

Again, this doesn't take into account the service aspect. I thoroughly enjoy the friendliness and even more important helpful attitude exhibited by the employees every single time I've visited Boliantz Hardware in my 30-plus years in Mansfield. What national chain can make a similar claim?

What is the Source doing about it?

We've teamed with the Richland Area Chamber and Economic Development to amplify and promote the interests of the small restaurants, retailers, experiences, and service providers in Richland County. We're all over Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27, but we're not stopping there.

⏰ Our team at Source Brand Solutions has built a six-week promotional campaign focused on shopping small.

📲 Our newsroom will keep small, local businesses in front of readers through a month-long reporting series.

🌎 We've developed a Shop Small Guide to connect you to great deals from local businesses throughout Richland County.

How can you help?

Richland County’s small shops, restaurants and attractions help folks feel connected to their community by replacing the uncertainty and loneliness of online shopping with the warmth and humanity of a unique gift that also builds a strong and resilient local economy. 

👉🏼 Order products and services through their online stores or... wait for it... buy gifts in person.

⭐️ Give the business a high rating on Google.

👨🏽‍💻 Share and like their social media pages and posts.

👏 Be a loyal, repeat customer.

Want to support someone who is trying to make a livelihood in our community? Shop local.

Want to support a business that is providing jobs for local people? Shop local.

Want your money to go where it can do the most good in our neck of the woods? Shop local.

Our small shops and restaurants supported us during the pandemic. Let’s invest in them for the holidays. 

⭐️ Support your neighbors. Shop small ⭐️

We've developed a Shop Small Guide to connect you to great deals from local businesses throughout Richland County.

I've lived in Richland Co. since 1990, married here, our children were born here. This is home. I have two books published on a passion topic, Ohio high school football. Others: Buckeyes, Cavs, Bengals, Reds, History, Disney.