Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Supporting local businesses this holiday season is one of the easiest and most effective ways to have a lasting impact in our community in a year where so much has been out of our own direct control.

Charleston has experienced massive change over the past 10 years, and much of the growth has been good. Longtime locals will gladly tell you of times when vacant storefronts outnumbered businesses in operation on King Street. Of course, that success has also caused some growing pains. Congestion, cost of living and demands on our infrastructure have increased. But Charleston residents have fostered a unique, locally focused economy that often champions small, homespun businesses over generic cookie-cutter operations with far-flung CEOs.

But it won’t stay that way without a little work from all of us.

“We believe our dollars are actually votes for the kind of place we want to live in. Every dollar we spend with a local business — be it retail, with a service provider or an experience — has the power to recirculate throughout the community, being passed along from local business to another and supporting a healthy local economy,” said Jordan Amaker, marketing director for Lowcountry Local First.

We heartily agree.

Here are a handful of ways you can support local businesses and the people behind them this holiday:

1. Avoid supply-chain woes by staying local. You might’ve heard there’s quite a shipping backlog due to the pandemic, leading to late deliveries and high prices. (It’s going to be a tough holiday for people in the market for the latest tech and appliances.) But you know where the supply chain is just fine? At your local store or gallery where gifts are on shelves now, ready for you to take home.

Amaker: “In a time when the world is facing logistics backlogs and shipping delays, there’s an added incentive to go down the street and come home right away with a unique gift. Instant gratification!”

2. Be intentional with your buying. It is oh-so convenient to order a sleigh-full of gifts to be dropped at your door in the next 48 hours. But you’re stacking the deck against the local businesses that an Amazon truck will drive past on the way to your house. Instead, make a plan and seek personal gifts made by real people in your community. Yes, it may take a little longer and it may cost a little more. But if you have the means to forgo your Prime delivery for items you could buy around the corner, please consider it. Another example: If your favorite restaurant offers online ordering directly, ditch delivery apps that shortchange proprietors and go to the source.

3. Seek the people behind the gifts you’re buying. There are still at least a half-dozen holiday markets on tap over the next few weeks. Many times, the people selling products are the people who made them. Our buy-local movement is built off of people in our community, fueled by personal relationships between the people who call a place home. By digging in and engaging in even a quick chat while you shop, you’re helping deepen those connections. (For market locations, visit events.charlestoncitypaper.com.)

4. Preach and live the gospel of local. Marketing guru Seth Godin teaches that creating connections to a person, idea or product is all about finding common purpose. As he explains it, “People like us do things like this.” Know it or not, people are watching what you do, what you post on social media, where you go, who you’re with, etc. Make it count.

We’re fortunate to live in a place where people visit for vacation — somewhere with a real sense of place. That’s no accident. It’s because of you and others who care. Keep it up. Enjoy the holidays.