Story and Photos by Kylie Kinnett
There is a certain feeling that comes from being greeted by a barista at your local coffee shop who knows both your name and the way you take your coffee. There is a special level of comfort when your local innkeeper wakes you with eggs cooked to your liking. There is an odd moment of feeling proud when recognizing an artist’s name under a painting as someone from your community.
Eating, staying, and shopping local all come with side benefits. It’s why supporting local businesses is not only important, but satisfying.
Keeping money local is the most imperative benefit. The money spent at independent businesses is not being sent to a corporate office in another city; it is staying right here in the community.
“The more people shop local, the better off our local economy is; we need that money to improve our schools, safety departments, and roads,” says Royce Hickman, president of the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce. Hickman adds that shopping local also creates jobs for our community. With the sales taxes generated, the cities are able to dive into pockets other than their own in order to pay for city improvements.
“Help keep property taxes lower by using other people’s money,” says Shannon Overby, president and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Money spent elsewhere is not going to help enrich our community, she adds.
Shopping local also means local people matter. “It’s interesting how things grow when you shine a light on them,” says Kristi Petty, owner of The Village Downtown, where the mission is to create a stage for local foods, music, and art. Petty realized she wanted to create a workplace with a family atmosphere and in addition, showcase the local talent that is all around her.
Bringing these different local aspects together allows the people in a community to feel connected creating tremendous support. “There is a warm sense of belonging,” says Tai Lee, owner of local food truck Chef Tai’s Mobile Bistro. When running a business where the primary customers are your family and friends it is easy to care about vital aspects such as inventory and customer service.
Besides dining and shopping, there are attractions to staying local, which offers a home-away-from-home environment. If you have ever felt that your personal wants and needs have gotten lost in a chain hotel, staying at a bed and breakfast may change that experience. “By staying local, you have a personal relationship with your innkeeper,” says Walter Qualls, innkeeper of the Pin Oak and president of the Brazos Valley Bed and Breakfast Association.
When people come to stay at his inn, the stay includes meals cooked to individual needs, fresh produce and coffee purchased at local stores, and insight about the area to help visitors have a rewarding experience.
“Locally owned businesses have a greater potential of making an impact or impression on our visitors,” says Overby.
Originality comes with locality and is one of the reasons why there is a creative vibe all throughout Downtown Bryan. “How could you differentiate one community to another if it weren’t for local business?” asks Petty.
By reinvesting in your community you are creating a personal connection to the place where you live. “It is these little details that set the local businesses apart from the sometimes indifferent national chains,” Lee says. Having product and customer knowledge, on a more personal level, creates a bond between businesses and the service they provide.
In a town with skills and talent as rich as Bryan/College Station, local business owners create the stage to showcase these resources to both their neighbors and the many visitors to the Brazos Valley.