When it’s 2 p.m. and you’re on the hunt for lunch, your first instinct may be to go to Subway, Chipotle or Panera.
If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s because you’re not the only one who often chooses franchised restaurants over local options.
Because we live in the city, students have the option to eat at more independent places such as cafés, restaurants and even small coffee shops. These little hidden places are what make Richmond so diverse and remarkable. They also benefit the Richmond community in many other ways.
Marinating Richmond’s individuality means supporting the local economy. According to the Institute of Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), locally-owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their profit back into the local economy, enriching the whole community. This means that students can actually see their money going to the greater community in which they live in.
They also create more jobs locally and some businesses even provide better wages and benefits than chains do. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), there were nearly 28 million small businesses in the United States in 2010. Over the past two decades, small firms have generated 65 percent of the new jobs in the country. Locally owned businesses help strengthen communities by connecting neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships and combining to local causes. Putting your money toward more small businesses means you can see your money benefiting you in the future. More of your dollars stay in the community, which is essential for the value of your home in neighborhoods.
Supporting local businesses goes beyond just supporting the economic aspect. By getting out and trying someplace new, you’re broadening your choices of food. Eating the same chain restaurants every other day becomes redundant; eating local food keeps the dining experience fresh and interesting. For example, instead of ordering another basic sub at Subway, try the two-foot-long monster subs at The Black Sheep located on West Marshall Street. The next time you want to get Panera, eat at the Village Café instead.
Local businesses go beyond just restaurants. Small-Business Saturday falls on Nov. 30 this year, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consumers are encouraged to shop at local, independently owned businesses during the holiday season. It’s a great opportunity for students to explore the small businesses that are located around Richmond including Champagne & Shoes, Ellman’s Dancewear and Indigo Avenue Clothing stores located in Carytown.
Opening and running a small business isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s one of the biggest financial risks a person can take, especially when they have to dip into their savings or retirement money just to make it happen. According to the SBA, more than half of new businesses will disappear in the first five years.
That’s where you come in. Support the city’s local businesses. They’re a key component of our community and what makes Richmond great. They deserve our support.