At Your Service: Dec. 9, 2009

The holiday shopping season is in full swing. Those who understand the retail industry know that the sales garnered in these few weeks make or break the annual profitability of most stores. It is especially critical for small independent stores like those that line our Main Streets.
When you are making your gift list, it will make a big difference if you spend your money locally.
There are many good reasons to shop locally, including the boost it gives to the local economy by providing jobs to our neighbors and because it keeps more money circulating in the community. When the money made within the community is added to that which comes from tourists, we create a true more the merrier scenario.
The best reason to shop locally, however, is that you can get an assortment of great gifts. The last couple of years have seen some vital new businesses grow in our villages. For very reasonable prices you can get clothes, toys and assorted other Christmas standards. In other stores you will find one of a kind items made by local artisans. Purchases made at holiday craft fairs provide the dual benefit of being unique and supporting the sponsoring organization.
Venture off the beaten path to find artists’ studios and the small general stores that are the lifeblood of their communities. Put together a package of necessary items to make practical and fun gifts. These are especially appreciated by those struggling to make ends meet.
Another kind of package can be put together using gift certificates. Give a night out to friends by purchasing gift certificates from local restaurants and/or activity venues: bowling, theater tickets of ski lift tickets are just a few that will brighten the eyes of those you care about. You might also want to facilitate an evening in with certificates for pizza and a movie rental or game that the entire family can enjoy.
Have friends who are doing work around their home? Talk to a plumber, electrician, carpenter or other skilled professional and prepay for their services. Almost anyone in these parts can use a load of logs or some heating fuel. For someone with a long driveway, you could cover the cost of plowing for one of our inevitable snowfalls.
There are a multitude of gifts that can be made up from local stores and service providers combined with a hefty dose of creativity. What makes them special is the amount of thought you will have to put in. People will know that you took the time to select things that are just for them, which is a gift in itself.
The benefits of shopping locally are many because local businesses have so much to offer. It gives you the opportunity to support local businesses and maintain the sustainability of our economy. It goes without saying that you also save the gas money you would have spent traveling out of the community. There is a great feeling that comes with knowing that you have given something that will please the recipient and served the community.
Another way of expressing your appreciation to local businesses is to vote for them in the Catskill Best Service Awards, on page 6B of the print edition of the Catskill Mountain News.