I’ve always tried to make a conscious effort to support small businesses as much as I could. I spend a considerable amount of time and money in Target, but I use a regional bank, eat at privately owned restaurants instead of chains whenever possible, and buy most of our hay and bunny food at a small pet shop downtown instead of the more conveniently located PetCo.
This weekend made me realize that as self-congratulatory as these efforts are I should be trying harder.
We weren’t downtown for alfalfa or to visit the tattoo parlor, the two most common reasons we’d visit that area, but in the pursuit of candy. Saturday afternoon the businesses on Main Street handed out treats to the several hundred costumed children filing their way up and down crowded sidewalks. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon, another opportunity for Alaina to wear this year’s outfit and another half dozen or so Kit Kats claimed by me as tariff.
It was also a brilliant marketing move, a way to raise awareness of a pretty diverse group of shops and eateries that many people, myself included, might not be aware of. Among the places that were either new or I was just unaware of were a music shop, a jewelry store, a store selling handmade artisan gifts and decor that I will admittedly never walk into and a collectibles shop with racks of comic books that I can’t wait to visit. There is a steampunk themed coffee shop with table games and another coffee shop with rooms full of used books for sale.
Most surprising was that the second floor of one of the large downtown buildings had been converted into three “escape rooms”, a new mystery solving trend where groups of people try and solve increasingly difficult puzzles in order to “escape.” Friends of mine from other parts of the country have been talking about these for a while now and I’m thrilled that I won’t have to travel far to try it out.
When I was a kid “downtown” was a single roomed general store with a gas station across the street at our town’s only stop light. “Main street” was the last stretch of dirt road leading to my friend’s horse farm where we would stage old-west style shoot outs. Whenever I traveled to an actual city I knew this to be the area I needed to find for bars and restaurants.
If you have one of these areas in your community and haven’t been in a while, do yourself a favor and check it out. You might be surprised by what you find there.