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Remember to shop local this holiday season

It may seem hard to believe, but the rush of the holiday season is right around the corner. In fact, for some people the hustle and bustle already have begun.

Following Thanksgiving is an unofficial holiday with the ominous-sounding name “Black Friday.” The moniker is fairly apt, since some not-so-positive things sometimes occur as people forget that the spirit of the season is supposed to be defined by generosity and kindness. Instead, they slip into a more competitive mindset, determined to take advantage of sale prices on hard-to-find items.

I have certainly participated in some Black Friday shopping in the past, and I am happy to report that my experiences were only positive. I have never set out to find one specific thing or to take advantage of one particular sale, so I have never been disappointed by the bargains I have found. And I have been fortunate to encounter other shoppers who were generally calm, polite and respectful of others.

Still, scrambling to big box stores that open on Thanksgiving Day or in the middle of the following night doesn’t hold much appeal for me. I’d rather enjoy time with family and friends and go shopping at a more leisurely pace when the mood strikes me.

When I do set out to find gifts for loved ones, I enjoy exploring smaller specialty shops that have offerings you might not find in larger chain stores. Small Business Saturday, observed the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday, is another occasion designed to encourage a particular type of shopping. It promotes local businesses and reminds area residents that those shops are there to serve them year-round.

As I was driving home from a meeting Saturday morning, I was reminded of some of our more interesting local destinations for Small Business Saturday — or for any shopping trip during which you would like to buy from area businesses.

The Furniture Rescue shop on High Street in Flushing was open Saturday morning with customers coming and going as I arrived at my destination nearby. I am a big fan of that shop, which shares its location with Shutway Hardware. Owner Kim Shutway takes old furniture from families across the region and revives those pieces, sometimes repurposing them and always giving them a fantastic look.

Not far away, I drove past Sunni Rae’s along Ohio 331. I know from experience that one can visit that shop to buy, sell or trade just about anything. The store carries everything from antiques to modern furniture, holiday decorations, crafts, toys and musical instruments.

Sunni Rae’s now occupies a site that once housed a similar shop know as Hornswogglers. That store is still in business, but it is now located on Jefferson Street in Bellaire.

If you’re in the market for antiques, you can also visit Barnesville Antique Mall, Shuggy’s Antiques and Jewelry or Antiques on the Market in Wheeling’s Centre Market, Three Labs Salvage in St. Clairsville or Attic Picker’s in Bridgeport.

If you have a bit more money to spend, perhaps you would be interested in an antique vehicle. Those can be found at Belmont Classic Cars on Stenger Road outside Belmont.

Many other specialty shops – selling clothing, shoes, pets and supplies, sporting goods, sewing notions, flowers and plants, purses, jewelry, electronics, food, beverages and more — can be found in many area downtowns. St. Clairsville, Barnesville, Powhatan Point, Bellaire, Cadiz, Woodsfield, Wheeling, Moundsville, Yorkville and many other local communities each have business districts with unique shopping options available.

I often know the owners or employees of these businesses, and that makes me feel even better about supporting them with my purchases.

Another advantage of shopping local is eating local. In many downtown districts, small diners and restaurants stand right alongside the stores you might visit. In some areas, breweries and wineries are close by as well.

Sampling the local fare is one thing I love to do when I travel. I believe eating at restaurants such as Home Pizza in Barnesville and St. Clairsville inspired me to do that, since I do truly love some of our local dishes.

So, as you plan your holiday shopping excursions this year, consider whether you might find the perfect gift for someone on your list at one of the numerous small businesses throughout our region. Sure, you can visit the Ohio Valley Mall, the Ohio Valley Plaza or The Highlands, too, but try to make time to explore some more unique destinations. You never know what you might find there – and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, chances are you will get the personalized attention you need to help you. Plenty of shop owners are happy to order items for customers or refer them to other local businesses that may have what they are looking for.

As for Cyber Monday, which follows the three aforementioned occasions, I will probably pass. Sitting at a computer where I can’t actually touch the merchandise I am interested in takes all the fun out of shopping for me. I prefer to shop in person – and to do so locally whenever possible.

Thank You

Jennifer Compston-Strough

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