Consumers looking to beat the hustle and bustle and steer clear of the crowds this year may want to pay attention to local businesses in lieu of trekking to nearby shopping malls.

Every time consumers visit local coffee shops to grab a latte, pick up a dress at a nearby boutique or patronize a farmer’s market down the street, they are supporting a small business. The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving are some of the busiest shopping days of the season, and they also can be some of the friendliest to small businesses.

Linda Harris owner of Willoby’s Feed and Outfitters explained, “Providing the best customer service has enabled us to be here 16 years. If we don’t have something the customer wants we order it so they don’t have to go elsewhere.  Our priority is serving our customers.”

Plaid Friday was conceptualized in Oakland. It may have been born in the Golden State, but the movement soon spread across the country. Plaid Friday is an alternative to big box stores’ Black Friday bonanzas. It is designed to promote both local and independently-owned businesses during the holiday season. The name Plaid Friday was used to help people visualize the various threads of small businesses coming together to create a strong community fabric that was diverse with creativity.

Shoppers can continue their small business patronage with Small Business Saturday. This, too, is a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The first event was created by American Express in conjunction with the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since its inception, many small business groups, merchants and politicians have touted the event and the Shop Small® mantra. The idea is that when small businesses thrive, communities and individuals thrive along with them.

Weaving and hand spinning teacher for Guthrie Arts Center, Donna Hilton, said supporting local non-profits also helps the community.

“We’re a non-profit center and our instructors are volunteer.  All of our inventory is supporting the artists and putting money into the art center which supports the community.”

The Small Business Administration says that, since 1995, small businesses have generated 66 percent of all new jobs in the United States. There are a number of big reasons to shop small. One can start around the holidays and then continue all year long.

· Shopping small businesses helps give back to the community directly. According to Civic Economics, a strategic planning business, on average 48 percent of each purchase made at independent businesses is recirculated locally through tax money and other support.

· Small business owners often strive to provide personalized, hands-on customer service. Repeat business is key to their survival, so they want to ensure shoppers are happy.

· Small businesses, since they are not beholden to corporate oversight in terms of what they sell, have greater flexibility. That allows them to offer a diverse product selection.

· Small business owners often live nearby, and they’re the people you see in town, schools and elsewhere in the local community. Many consumers are comforted to know they’re supporting their neighbors, especially during the holiday season.

Guthrie Chamber of Commerce CEO Tracy Zserdin stated, “Shopping local means you’re circulating money time and time again throughout the community.  When you shop local you’re paying for your neighbor’s children’s dance lessons or team jerseys.  Support our community by choosing Guthrie.”