BY PUBLISHER EMERITUS ARMAND MIELE
Small businesses and stores in Rockland County are struggling to pay their bills. We customers should never forget this. We should do all we can to patronize local businesses, because they are the backbone of our community.
Mom and Pop, and all small business owners, put in long hours, always hoping things will get better. These are the pioneers of our community, the truly free-thinking leaders who build up the local economy. They don’t mind the long hours, because they are proud of their accomplishments. And according to most people I talk to, we want small businesses to survive.
Many times I have heard people remark, “Wouldn’t it be nice if a local place opens here?” We might be talking about a restaurant, a deli, or a clothing or shoe retailer; butcher, baker, or candle-stick maker. We love friendly neighborhood stores who respect and appreciate their customers. We love patronizing the small business owned by a childhood friend. We say, “If only we could bring back the old neighborhoods and small towns!”
You know what? The only way small businesses can come back is through our support. That means recognizing the service and quality a small business can offer, and skipping the bargains offered by chain stores.
Government puts small business at a disadvantage, and favors big chains, by imposing ill-considered fees. When local government needs money to dole out to mandates and programs, it turns to small business. The MTA payroll tax is a perfect example. Local politicians do this because they are seeking votes from residents; many small business owners don’t vote in the municipality of their places of business. So voters feel they are not hurt, because the business owners pay. But how must the business owners make up for the extra costs? By charging their customers more. No wonder customers feel forced into going to the closest mall or discount chain store.
This is one of the reasons that politics stinks. If a small grocery store raises the price of a quart of milk by a dime, customers go to the supermarket instead. Big companies can more easily pass extra fees by distributing costs more widely; the small business cannot. Where an increase in local fees may cost a small business owner 30 to 40 percent of her profits, the same increase may cost a chain store only a fraction of one percent.
The telephone companies charge a small business owner much larger fees than they charge a homeowner. The same goes for water bills and other utilities. Why should a sewer tax on a barbershop be billed by how many chairs they have, and not by how much water it uses? The same goes for a small restaurant. The sewer tax is based on the number of tables and chairs, not with water use. Why shouldn’t water use be metered, to allow for fairer costs?
Mom and Pop stores are the backbone of any community. Folks should be told that the failure of small business will bring their property values down. We should also keep in mind that successful small businesses, run by people with their roots in the community, promotes the kind of secure community and family values that we all want to uphold. Just look around at struggling downtown areas with vacant or struggling stores. What does that do to a community? On the other hand, what does a thriving downtown give us?
We must keep the small merchants alive in this county’s hamlets, villages, and towns. Patronize them. Many seem like they will be around forever, but many others have failed after 10, 20, even 50 years in business. If they lose, everyone loses. Malls and shopping centers couldn’t care less. Their profits are not spent here. All that money leaves the county to go to the corporate offices.
The Mom and Pop stores are part of our community. Their families live and grow here. They keep our villages and hamlets alive. What better reason to give the local small business owners your support? They are the best ones to serve you.