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Shop Small for the Holidays all around the Nature Coast

By Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ Posted on November 1, 2018

Halloween is past. November is upon us and Thanksgiving is less than a month away. What a blessing it is to live in the paradise of Florida’s Nature Coast during the fall season. While we do not have extravagant color shows from the changing of the leaves, we do have beautiful wildflowers that change with the seasons, and more subtle things make this an ideal time of year. My favorite change is in the temperature moving into comfortable.

With the temperatures averaging the mid-seventies during the day, the ideal time to get out and shop the friendly merchants of our downtowns is now. One of the unique features of our area is the number of historic downtown districts with friendly shopkeepers to visit.

At Quilts on Plum Lane in Dade City, owner Donna Lillibridge is on-site daily and employees, friends and community members gather for classes throughout the seasons.

Downtowns with a courthouse include Dade City, Inverness and Brooksville. Each of these historic districts offers you the ability to shop for antiques, cards, gifts, apparel, home décor, outdoor recreation items, furniture, art, food, coffee and more. I much prefer the selection of items available at these smaller retailers to the common items of the big box stores.

Mary Garcia, owner of Stay and Play Pet Getaway in Hernando loves dogs and cats. Her family runs the top-shelf boarding facility.

The Shop Small Movement

In 2010, American Express began the “Shop Small” program to help us discover the value of purchasing from a local merchant. In 2011, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to officially support Small Business Saturday. In 2015, 95 million Americans went out for Shop Small Saturday.

While Small Business Saturday is highlighted as a special day when we can show our support as a nation for small business owners and our communities, the Shop Small Movement is a year-round campaign to celebrate and support small businesses every day.

Where to Find the Shops

Our NatureCoaster.com directory contains listings of local small businesses who will give you superior service, as well as in-depth knowledge of their product lines.

For example, I recently needed a lot of lumber.  I went to my local big box store and found out that it’s a “small” big store and they do not carry the size of lumber that I want for my project. I was told that I could go to another of their larger stores and get what I wanted and the price.

The Royal Dalton House is a locally owned and managed Assisted Living Facility and Memory Care residence in Homosassa. The owners have made a huge commitment to the community.

I was tired and decided to go home and do some research. I’ve been driving by a lumber and building supply store for several years but decided to call them and ask. They have what I need at 35% less! When I visited the store, they were very conscientious to pick out the straightest boards on their lot and had to check their warehouse to complete the order. After taking my number, they called the next day to tell me that they have what I need but it will take a couple days to “dig it out of the warehouse.”

The same person called me who had helped me in the store and will call me back in a couple of days when the product is in stock. They know my name and I know theirs. This will now be my first stop when I need building supplies.

This little angel has just helped her mom, brother and grandma pick a bucket of strawberries at JG Ranch, a u-pick farm in Brooksville that offers strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, corn and assorted produce, as well as fresh eggs and locally-made items at their produce stand on the farm. Joan and George Casey, as well as Jeff and Debbie Casey and their children run this family farm.

Communities are Strengthened by Small Businesses

Which brings me to my next point – community relationships. You know, the more we talk to each other, the better our world is. The person who runs a shop is an expert on their merchandise. They go to trade shows where the newest products are shown and choose what they best think will sell, as well as the best quality products to sell within the price points of their market. They invest in the merchandise, pay rent or a mortgage for their storefront, taxes to the municipality they operate in, and provide jobs to residents of the area.

William Bunch and his grandson, Xavier, at William’s restaurant, Oysters in Crystal River. Family owned and operated, William greets nearly every guest in the restaurant and is a consistent community supporter.

And what is the price for this? Is it really more expensive to “shop small?” There are high end retailers in both large and small shops. Still, the fabric in a specialty fabric store is unlikely to cost more than a comparable quality fabric in a big box craft store.

Years ago, most small retailers only wanted to carry the higher priced items but today I have noticed that most small shops carry a variety of price points to meet the needs of their patrons for inexpensive, mid-range and expensive items.

James Cook met his wife, Heather, while at Johnson and Wales University. They began roasting coffee in a popcorn popper. Today they have four Cattle Dog Coffee Roaster stores with fresh-roasted coffee, amazing breakfast, lunch and pastry items and are going to the World Food Championships for the second year in a row. Their stores are in Hernando, Lecanto and Inverness.

In fact, one Chicago study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the city while only $43 of each $100 spent at a chain retailer.

The Service keeps me Coming Back

Laura Starkey wanted to combine her love of nature and caring for people with an innovative Nature Preserve and natural burial cemetery called Heartwood Preserve in Trinity.

Some retailers offer free gift wrap with your purchase. In fact, I have become a loyal patron for just this service. A last-minute gift that is wrapped for me while I chat with the shopkeeper is so much more relaxing than running into a big box or discount store and gathering gift, paper, ribbon and card and haphazardly assembling things in the car. And the retailers make a much nicer package!

In Floral City, Aunt Martha’s Produce is also known as the Floral City Visitors Center. Martha has lived in Floral City for most of her life, raising her daughters here. Now her granddaughters help in the fresh produce market that carries Amish goods and grass-fed beef.

So, while big box retailers barrage you with Black Friday deals and online catalog ordering, let’s forego the hurry up and spend mentality this holiday season. Instead, enjoy your family on Friday. Go out to a small retailer and enjoy the process of holiday shopping within our community starting now.

Susan Gagliolo, co-owner of DogMania and Cats Too in Dade City, will help you find the perfect food to help your best friend with any ailments or the perfect outfit to dress them up. Her husband Bruce makes one-of-a kind gifts featuring your pet – and they have a huge assortment of pet-centric gifts and supplies.

And a meal out! Locally owned restaurants provide a welcome pick-me-up between purchases. There are choices for every type of food throughout the Nature Coast’s shopping areas. Did you know that locally owned restaurants return 65% of each dollar you spend to the community vs. chain restaurants returning just under 35%?

Mrs. and Mr. Ebbecke began a winery in 2016 on their u-pick farm in Masaryktown, Upicktopia. They craft wines from several berries available at the farm and provide free tastings and regular weekend entertainment for guests.

What a bargain it is to enjoy time with neighbors and make new friends while discovering your new favorite destination in Florida’s Nature Coast. Be sure to get out and shop small for big returns – and please, tell them NatureCoaster sent you. Post photos of your favorite finds on our Facebook page, or comment below with your favorites and we’ll have a great holiday season together.

David and Melissa Perry own Hunter Spring Kayaks in Crystal River. Local residents, who want to share their love of nature and watersports, they offer guided tours and rentals of all types of paddle craft.

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