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Small businesses thankful for local support in surviving pandemic

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The Station Park Circle, which sells art, furniture, crafts and thrifted goods, credits local support for small businesses for allowing the company to survive the pandemic so far. (Photo/The Station Park Circle)Did you know small businesses make up 99.4% of South Carolina's private businesses?

Defined as having 500 employees or less, these businesses combine to employ more than 817,000 residents, according to a 2020 report (.pdf) by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt is encouraging everyone to support them Nov. 28 for Small Business Saturday.

The annual initiative created by American Express in 2010 falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and promotes the support of mom and pop shops across the country. This year data from the Small Business Administration revealed more than 63,000 South Carolina companies filed for emergency Paycheck Protection Loans.

“Small and medium-sized firms are truly the backbone of our state’s economy, employing nearly half of all South Carolinians. Last year alone, small businesses created more than 44,000 net new jobs,” Hitt said in an email. “But, many are struggling to keep their doors open this year because of COVID-19.”

The Station Park Circle opened in 2018 and has grown to include 50 vendors in 3,000 square feet on Spruill Avenue in North Charleston. (Photo/The Station Park Circle)Sharon Payer, owner of The Station Park Circle — an eclectic shop that sells art, furniture, crafts and thrifted goods — credits the community’s desire to support small businesses as the reason her own has survived the pandemic so far.

“When you shop here, 80% of every dollar you spend stays within the community,” she said. “And when you spend locally, the people that are getting that money spend locally as well.”

Since her opening in 2018, Payer’s product base has grown from a handful of local vendors to nearly 50 in her 3,000-square-foot space on Spruill Avenue. Inventory includes handmade creations from artist Tami Boyce, illustrator of Frothy Beard Brewing Co.’s logo, and Black Octopus Mercantile LLC, a surf sticker and apparel shop that had been featured on Netflix’s hit show Outer Banks.

“With small businesses you can get to know and see the people that you are supporting,” Payer said. “You can shop at Target and Amazon, which I do too, but you don’t know where that money is going.”

Elizabeth Ward, general manager at Summerville’s Matthew Ward Landscapes and its Holly Golightly Gift Shop, feels that small businesses also are more helpful and provide a more personable shopping experience.

“When people come in here, they know us by name. They even know our pets’ names,” Ward said. “We’re not just a small business, we’re family owned, too.”

The eight-acre garden center that Ward runs with her ex-husband offers plants, shrubs and palmetto trees, which Ward said make great holiday gifts that provide healthier alternatives to the clutter. The boutique then offers an array of goods from other small businesses.

“If people don’t support small businesses, I don’t know what this country will be like. Even Ford and other companies that are big now were at one point a small business,” she said. “They definitely have their pros and cons, but if you don’t support small business, then you’re just going to be at the mercy of big corporations who don’t care about you personally.”

Saturday also marks the one-year anniversary for Michael’s Barkery on Daniel Island, a pet spa and boutique that provides employment for adults with cognitive disabilities.

“We don’t have the same level of bail out that big corporations do, and our business in particular hires a population of individuals who would otherwise not be able to have employment at all,” Shawna Hall, exceptional employee facilitator, said. “By supporting our business, it allows us to continue giving opportunities to these individuals in the community.”

Michael’s Barkery has taken a hard, unexpected hit as it ramped up its first year. The business was forced to cancel plans for selling goods via a treat truck, visiting farmers markets and introducing its teammates to the Lowcountry. Even still, the mission has sustained, hiring eight disabled individuals for full-time job with competitive wages, in addition to eight neurotypical employees. While some workers are fully independent, Hall is there to help those who need support on a daily basis.

Like Payer, Hall is thankful to the close-knit community support that has helped Michael’s Barkery get back on track after a tough setback.

This is why Hitt said now more than ever South Carolinians need to step up to support the companies that “operate within our borders.”

“Our year-round backing promotes more vibrant, prosperous communities — something we can all get behind,” he said. 

Reach Teri Errico Griffis at 843-849-3144.

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