Commentary: Locally-owned businesses make the community a better place to live

Commentary: Locally-owned businesses make the community a better place to live
August 09
09:25 2019

By Algenon Cash

The National Black Theater Festival just wrapped up an exciting week of performances, shows, and late night events that attracted thousands of guests to our city from across the country. It’s amazing such a progressive organization exists right here in our own backyard – we are thankful for the vision of Larry Leon Hamlin and grateful for those who followed behind him with the energy to continue growing what he started.

NBTF was a boon for the local economy as people snapped up hotel rooms, visited downtown shops, and kept restaurant kitchens humming much later than normal. Undoubtedly, all the increased economic activity was very much welcomed as local business owners struggle to get through the summer slowdown triggered when residents abandon the city for summer vacations.

Large-scale events such as the National Black Theater Festival or RiverRun International Film Festival, global conferences and trade shows like the Furniture Market, collectively help to boost small businesses, and we are thankful for the many local officials who spend countless hours recruiting, planning, and executing on these critical opportunities.

However, we must encourage more residents to support our locally-owned enterprises. Please notice I didn’t say “buy” or “shop” local, because it’s not my place or anyone else’s to tell consumers how or where to spend hard-earned dollars. Some locally-owned businesses have not done what’s necessary to earn your money.

I intentionally used the word “support” because every resident should be hyper-focused on helping locally-owned businesses to sustain.  

Yes, we need you to buy stuff, but more importantly, we need you to be an advocate – which means you help us get it right when we are getting it wrong, you don’t tear down local businesses, you demonstrate patience when we experience growing pains, you consider us first, and you promote us just as much as you promote the big national players.

Supporting locally-owned businesses also benefits local residents. When a consumer buys local products or services, more of that money stays in the community to help local causes. A recent study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the city.

Not to mention locally-owned businesses often seek to deliver products and services in forgotten or depressed areas, which breathes new life into blighted neighborhoods. 

For example, residents in East Greensboro demanded a grocery store in their neighborhood for over a decade; Renaissance Co-Op answered the call. The grocer provided fresh food in a neighborhood long declared a “food desert” or an area lacking access to healthful foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.  

The store was open for less than three years before closing because they didn’t receive the support anticipated – consumers decided to keep driving out of market to support national grocers with cheaper prices.

Also keep in mind local business owners and employees support other locally-owned businesses – shopping at other local establishments for both business and personal reasons, which creates a significant multiplier effect. Whereas national businesses often source their supplies from corporate, as well as managers, employees rarely have a personal attachment to the local economy.

Buying local also gives you a unique attachment to the people behind the business. I’ve never walked into a Papa John’s Pizza and saw John Schnatter in the kitchen cooking. However, on any given night when I visit Mission Pizza Napoletana located at 707 Trade Street, typically I’m greeted by the owner and operator, Peyton Smith, who is actually working the cook line to get his delicious pizza out to hungry guests.

Walk into a variety of other local restaurants and you quickly notice the same – Sweet Potatoes, Forsyth Seafood, Spring House Kitchen, Meta’s, and of course Zesto.

Small businesses are the backbone of America, creating over 70% of all new jobs in the country. Of course, that makes locally-owned businesses the heart of any community. Local businesses create a unique fabric in towns across the nation and make each city different from every other city in the world. 

Not to mention, I’ve never seen Amazon, WalMart, or Apple donate to local churches, support little league teams, or purchase ads in the high school yearbooks.

Lastly, locally-owned businesses offer better customer service that is often highly personalized – any reader who has ever failed to receive an issue of The Chronicle knows this – because I can assure Publisher James Taylor is all over it.  

Unlike other newspapers distributing in the region, we are locally-owned and operated, so we have a stronger vested interest in caring for our subscribers. No other newspaper covers local sports, events and quality of life issues like The Chronicle.

Supporting locally-owned businesses is not always convenient or the most affordable option, but it does make your community a better place to live.


Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at

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