The Finger Lakes are home to many small, close-knit communities, the fabric of which is made from the people who inhabit them, yes, but also the small businesses that bring unique offerings to the area.  Here at the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, we are so happy to celebrate those small businesses that attract our visitors, make this area a great place to live, and keep our communities thriving.  So, in honor of National Small Business Week – which is celebrating 50 years in 2013 - we’d like to highlight some of our Insiders’ favorite small businesses!

But before we get in to that in the following days, let’s talk about the ‘why’.  Why should we celebrate small businesses?  Why should we support “local”?  Why, in the Finger Lakes, should we be so proud of our communities?

To answer all of those questions, I offer one piece of advice – take a minute to check out the 3/50 project.  It’s tagline?  Small business 3/50 ProjectPick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy.  What does that even mean?  Well, it’s simple.  There must be at least three small businesses in your area that you would be so sad to see disappear.  What are they?  Stop in, and pick up something that’ll make you, or someone you know, smile.  (In the name of travel happiness!)  Between those three small businesses, if you spend $50 per month, and half of the employed population did the same, we could generate over $46.2 billion in revenue, with 68% of that revenue coming back to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures.  Chain stores offer only a 43% return for the local economy, and buying online?  Zip, zero, zilch.

I, personally, LOVE this project, because it rings so true in the Finger Lakes.  Our region is made up of communities that are home to small businesses run by passionate people.  Stop in to any one of them and the owner is sure to come out and be happy to tell you their story. 

It’s easy to think of three – no, even five – small businesses in each of Ontario County’s communities that I would be so sad to see go.  What would downtown Canandaigua be without F. Oliver’s, Adorn Jewelry, Sweet Expressions, The Country Ewe, or Simply Crepes?  Or Geneva without Whisper Chocolate, Leaf Kitchen, Finger Lakes Gifts & Lounge, Opus, or Billsboro? And then there’s Naples, who epitomizes local with places like Brew & Brats, Joseph’s Wayside Market, Jule’s Southwestern Kitchen, Inspire Moore, and Monica’s Pies.  And the list goes and on and on in each of those communities, as well as in our beautiful small towns of Clifton Springs, Phelps, the Bloomfields, Victor, Honeoye, Shortsville/Manchester, and more.  I’m ready to jump in the car and head out to each one right now!

It’s not always easy to justify spending money, I know, but let me give you three good reasons right here:

1. Spending just $50 a month in local businesses can generate an amazing return for the economy in the area you live or play in.

2. It’s hardly a waste when you’re buying and spreading the love for the locally-produced products that we’re known for.

3. You don’t need an occasion - the best presents are the unexpected ones.  Surprise a friend with squash seed oil; put some flowers in a handmade vase from the Wizard of Clay for your loved one; treat yourself to some fresh fudge.  And feel good knowing that you’re investing in an entire community when you do so.

Happy National Small Business Week in the Finger Lakes!  Where will you be off to first?