Our Opinion: Back small business and boost community

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Today is Black Friday, the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season that has become such an institution that one day is not enough for it. Retailers began offering Black Friday deals well before Thanksgiving, just as car dealers advertise great buys well before and after the traditional Presidents Day sales.

Black Friday is associated with news footage of shoppers pushing through doors and battling each other over gifts. In dramatic contrast, tomorrow comes the low-key follow-up to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday. In an era of online shopping, the day serves as a reminder that shopping locally provides benefits to a community that buying from Amazon does not.

According to the organization Shop Small, for every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S., 67 cents stays in the local community. That money spent locally is recycled locally in the form of taxes and salaries paid to employees. Beyond that, it is small business that supports local charities, youth league sports team and other worthy causes. That 67 cents can go a long way.

There was a time when the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough was Black Friday central for county shoppers. Those days are over, as the big box retailers have departed, as they have from malls all over New England and the Northeast. However, small retailers remain at the Mall and they need the support of Berkshire residents.

The mall in its heyday was supposed to be the death of retailers in and around Pittsfield, and damage was undeniably done. The venerable Allendale Shopping Center just south of the mall was thought to be doomed but it got through some tough times and is bustling with stores old and new. North Street has been coming back with an eclectic mix of stores. Great Barrington's downtown is thriving, and communities as different as North Adams and Lenox, Adams and Williamstown, offer small businesses that help build vibrant communities.

An additional benefit of shopping locally is that you get away from the laptop, out of the house and into the community. The shopping experience can provide an opportunity to run into old friends, meet new ones and see what's going on in your town and your county.

These small businesses deserve our support today — and every day. In doing so, shoppers can pick up some gifts while boosting the local economy, boosting not just shop owners but everyone who lives in and is invested in the economic health of the towns and cities that make up the Berkshires.

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