a view of the sidewalk down chatham street. photo by matt williams photography.

a view of the sidewalk down chatham street.
photo by matt williams photography.

photo by matt williams photography

photo by matt williams photography

small business saturday in downtown fuquay-varina

small business saturday in downtown fuquay-varina

made shop in cary’s stone creek village. photo courtesy of made.

made shop in cary’s stone creek village. photo courtesy of made.

pattywhacks in cary

pattywhacks in cary

After spending hours creating a holiday shopping list, you visit your favorite stores in pursuit of flawless gifts. With an abundance of shops advertising seasonal deals, it may be challenging to pick the best place to spend your income.
    Avoiding large department stores in favor of locally owned businesses is a great start. In fact, Western Wake County is one of the leading spots for entrepreneurs and small businesses. According to Jennifer Martin, executive director at Shop Local Raleigh, Western Wake is one of the best places to open a business. With a higher median income, residents are able to support these establishments.
    A study provided by Shop Local Raleigh has determined that as much as 51.1% of every dollar spent at a local shop remains in our community. Compare that to a big box store, where only 13.6% stays. That’s 37.5% in extra money that is re-circulated to fund our community parks, schools and basic infrastructures.
    Pockets of local shops adorn our area, allowing shoppers to complete their holiday lists, while giving back in a significant way.
    “When you’re gifting someone, it’s a good feeling to know you bought something that was made by hand from someone in your community,” Martin explains. “You’ve helped give someone a job and you’ve kept your hard-earned money here.”
    One of the best spots to find a cluster of local businesses is downtown Cary, where construction has been constant. While the end result will be promising, the duration of this process is causing frustration among business owners and shoppers. The road closures and limited parking have deterred patrons, but that hasn’t stopped storeowners from providing their products in different ways.
    “Some businesses in downtown will attend pop-up events outside of their brick and mortar to help increase sales. Some are using their social media and trying new strategies to keep thier existing customers and attract new consumers to their business,” Martin states. The majority of downtown Cary is made up of locally-owned businesses that have remained open through the construction.
    Shop Local Raleigh is optimistic that residents will take advantage of the new infrastructure. “Explore what is available in the downtown area. Take a moment to sip, shop, dine and embrace the live, work, play philosophy,” Martin shares. “BREW Coffee Bar, The Cary Theatre, Bond Brothers Beer Company and others have been welcome additions to this part of Western Wake.” These businesses are gearing up for a busy holiday season and are excited to provide their products to customers.
    Fifteen minutes from Downtown Cary, on the corner of High House Road and Davis Drive, sits Stone Creek Village. Stone Creek is a versatile shopping center where locally-owned businesses are speckled amongst big box stores. The Village provides an opportunity to shop local and foster community. Browsers will find the Spa at Stone Creek, Republic of Yoga, Woof Gang Bakery and many locally owned gift shops and eateries.

jodi stevens, owner of bless your heart monograms & gifts, holds the store’s “home” ornament.

jodi stevens, owner of bless your heart monograms & gifts, holds the store’s “home” ornament.

quirky clocks from yellow house florals & gifts (fuquay-varina)

quirky clocks from yellow house florals & gifts (fuquay-varina)

     Made Shop in Stone Creek Village provides authentic goods to its customers. All items in the store are handcrafted and carefully selected by owner, Ursula Ellis. Ellis had a dream to open a shop that would house unique items, careful to select products that aren’t carried in chain stores. “Getting to meet and work with the community on a daily basis, figuring out what their needs are and then filling those needs, is why I do this,” Ellis states. Cultivating creative minds in the community is important to Ellis, a mission that has encouraged her to host craft events in the store’s studio.
    In June 2016, Elixir Coffee, etc. opened in Stone Creek Village, offering coffee and baked goods to consumers. Manager Preeti Waas has experienced the difficulties, firsthand, of maintaining a small business. “The biggest challenge is getting people to know that we are here,” Waas explains. “As an independent small business, we rely mostly on the quality of our product and customer service to help spread the word; however, that is a slower process.” Marketing and advertising budgets are significantly lower than that of a big box store, making it difficult for small shops to compete.
    The tribulations that come with owning a small business does not stop entrepreneurs from loving their jobs. “We are here to serve you; that is our number one goal. Feeding and caffeinating people makes us happy, and no matter what kind of day you are having, we hope we can make it a little bit better with a genuine smile and great coffee,” Waas claims. Another cluster of neighborhood shops is located at Saltbox Village on Kildaire Farm Road. The Butcher’s Market, Pattywhacks children’s clothing store and Science Safari are just a few of their locally-owned businesses.
    Suzanne Stewart, owner of Pattywhacks, is an advocate for well-dressed children. The store is brimming with Southern-approved attire and gifts. She provides unique styles, like smocked and appliqued outfits, for her customers. “I absolutely love running this small business with such great customers who we know mostly on a first-name basis,” Stewart states. “My ultimate goal for our store is that we treat people with the utmost respect when they walk through our doors.” This type of customer care is predominant in small businesses.
    A few steps from Pattywhacks is Science Safari, a nature store filled with unusual toys and supplies for kids. The proximity of Pattywhacks and Science Safari gives the owners the ability to support, rather than compete, with one another. Small business owners are thrilled to find companions, often times sharing a customer base.
    Science Safari teaches about nature and animals through weekly classes, while encouraging imaginative play. They support local toy makers, giving customers a wide range of American made gifts.
    We also encourage you to enjoy downtown Apex. Not only is it home to local businesses, it’s a charming spot for a stroll. A favorite store to visit is All Booked Up, owned by Janice Monaco, housing both used and new books. Monaco saw the demand for a used bookstore in Apex and opened up shop. She enjoys highlighting local authors through book signings and events. She understands the hardship of competing with big names, encouraging her to promote local talent.
    All Booked Up sits amongst many small businesses, allowing them to create an alliance. You will find a number of festivals and events on Salem Street, encouraging businesses to combine efforts and support one another. Martin of Shop Local Raleigh notices the power of community at times like this. “When you organize, attend and partner with these festivals and fairs, you find the vendors are committed to the success of the event. They are more likely to volunteer, plan, and help each other out.”
    Over in Fuquay-Varina, owner Elaine Ball of Yellow House Gifts and More finds it challenging to stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Big box stores have a massive selection of professional buyers, allowing them to stay on top of the season’s latest craze. Ball overcomes this hardship by visiting AmericasMart in Atlanta to remain educated and timely.
    Ball is an advocate for carrying items made by local North Carolinians. You will find paintings and photographs from local artists gracing the walls. Candles, bath salts and even toffee are all made locally. “It is about community, it is about caring, it is about being your friend and making you smile,” Ball says.
    Sharing in Ball’s love for our community is Lisa Allen, with Ivy Cottage in Morrisville. Allen opened her store 22 years ago and has experienced a fair share of highs and lows. “We often joke that we should have a reality show based on running a small business,” Allen states. “After over 20 years there are plenty of stories regarding theft, outrageous customer demands and economic challenges.” None of which have discouraged Allen from supplying unique gifts and keeping long-term customers coming back for household items and holiday décor.
    In Holly Springs, Jodi Stevens, owner of Bless Your Heart Monograms & Gifts, opened her shop after running a successful online business. Taking her passion to a brick and mortar exposed her to the struggles of managing a small business. Stevens opened the shop with a large supply of baby items, and was surprised when they didn’t sell. She shifted her focus to women’s apparel and gifts, now experiencing a greater outcome. “We are constantly learning. We are striving to be the best we can be and learn something new every day,” Stevens shares.
    Each store contributes to the uniqueness of our county. Small business owners strive to source American made items, serve the customer and keep money in our community. Shops are providing jobs in exciting atmospheres and teaching the general public about hard work and local devotion.
    Martin is hopeful that our community can make a major adjustment. “We encourage consumers to shift 10% of their annual spending each year to locally owned and independent businesses. If each household in Wake County did this annually, we would bring in millions of dollars each year in tax revenue that would stay here.”
    With holiday shopping on our mind, now is the time to put that plan into place. Visit local establishments and watch our community grow, one handmade item at a time.