Shopping Small for Big Returns on Florida’s Nature Coast

Thanksgiving is a week 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 from HOT to comfortable.

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

The historic Citrus County courthouse is surrounded by shops of many varieties with plenty to offer a shopper and a diner.
The historic Citrus County courthouse is surrounded by shops of many varieties with plenty to offer a shopper and a diner.

Downtowns with an historic courthouse square include Dade City, Inverness and Brooksville. Each of these districts offers you the ability to shop for antiques, cards, gifts, apparel, home décor, outdoor recreation items, furniture, art and more. I much prefer the selection of items available at these smaller retailers to the common items of the big box stores. I encourage you to get out and experience the Nature Coast Shop Small experience, whether it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving or any other time throughout the year.

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Church Street Shoppe in Dade City offers free gift wrapping for your purchases. You can see community members gathering outside the store with Grady Cunningham, the store’s owner, before and after they shop.

Shop Small Saturday was started by American Express™ in 2010 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.

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Shop Small Saturday is November 26. It is part of the Shop Small idea that encourages us to get out into our communities to purchase items and build relationships year round

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, according to American Express™.

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The historic SOSA (South San Antonio) shopping district offers several small retailers, from antiques to pizza, in buildings that have great stories. Stop in San Antonio Antiques and ask John for your free gift while he tells you about his dad’s contribution to the area.

San Antonio and Homosassa offer artist galleries and shops that make finding a handcrafted item for your favorite family member, friend, mentor, boss or yourself a pleasant and fruitful experience. Sosa, or South San Antonio Shops include a lovely antique store, gift store, monogrammed items store, and a fairly famous pottery studio. Old Homosassa offers painter, metal sculptors, potters and glasswork artists’ studios.

Florida Artists Gallery is located in one of the historic homes, has a great selection of local artisans and offers classes and events.
Florida Artists Gallery is located in one of the historic homes, has a great selection of local artisans and offers classes and events.

Floral City has a wonderful Art Gallery that co-ops a wide variety of Nature Coast artists’ work. There is another gallery in town as well as an interesting gift shop for the history lover in the Heritage Museum.

New Port Richey has a brand new art gallery in the downtown, as well as great eateries and pubs. Karen’s Gifts has been a staple for twenty years on Grand Avenue where shoppers can find the latest collectibles and holiday decorations. With a new owner this year, new lines are sure to be coming in.

The beautiful buildings that make up New Port Richey's downtown core add to the enjoyment of shopping small. Theatre tickets make great gifts!
The beautiful buildings that make up New Port Richey’s downtown core add to the enjoyment of shopping small. Theatre tickets make great gifts!

Our NatureCoaster.com directory has listings of several local small businesses who will give you superior service, as well as in-depth knowledge of their product lines. For example, I witnessed a customer asking for a specific item in a toy store yesterday. The shopkeeper did not have the item in stock, so they walked the customer over to their counter and went through their supplier’s catalog to pinpoint exactly what the customer was looking for. The order was placed. The customer will get what they want and the merchant-customer relationship was strengthened.

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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.

Jim Oleson of Boyett's Grove in Spring Lake will help you pick the finest fruit in his store.
Jim Oleson of Boyett’s Grove in Spring Lake will help you pick the finest fruit in his store.

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.

Plums on Quilt Lane offers classes, as well as a great selection of fabrics, notions, and personal service.
Plums on Quilt Lane offers classes, as well as a great selection of fabrics, notions, and personal service.

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.

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!

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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, rest with your family on Friday and then go out to a small retailer and enjoy the process of holiday shopping within our community.

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%?

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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 FB page and just, please, have a great time!