This holiday season brings a sharpened focus on shopping local.

As Long Islanders continue to navigate supply chain and inflation challenges in this phase of the pandemic, small businesses bring a new level of appeal.

The reasons are plentiful, including boosting the region’s economy. And in a time of shortages and rising costs – especially gas prices – business leaders hope that local fare resonates with consumers, with Small Business Saturday taking place Nov. 27.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Long Island’s economy – if they are successful, we all are,” said Matt Cohen, president and CEO of Long Island Association. “When you are doing your holiday shopping, shop local and have fun doing it.”

And Long Islanders have a soft spot for the region’s downtowns and local purveyors.

“People don’t want to see vacancies on their Main Streets,” Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island and LI Main Street Alliance, said.

This year 80 percent of consumers expect to shop at small businesses for holiday gifts, according to an American Express Shop Small Impact Study released last week. The survey polled 1,013 adults in the United States in October.

Their support is crucial to the survival of small businesses.

Seventy-eight percent of small business owners said that holiday sales would impact their ability to stay open in 2022, according to the study, which surveyed 523 small businesses in the United States. 

“Largely, Main Street has fared better than businesses outside of downtowns,” Alexander said, adding that amid the pandemic, a new appreciation formed around the region’s Main Streets, which became hubs where people walked, biked and purchased goods. “People have pride where they shop, live and recreate. They don’t want to see those stores go out.”

ERIC ALEXANDER: ‘People don’t want to see vacancies on their Main Streets.’

Small businesses have long been essential to a community’s ability to thrive. They sponsor the village’s sports teams, donate to nonprofits and volunteer. They served as a lifeline when COVID-19 first hit the region, accommodating customers so that they felt safe while meeting consumer needs and preferences.

These business have provided a “personal service and the trust-level connection really bumped up through COVID,” Alexander said.

Shopping local, especially for goods produced on Long Island, makes economic and environmental sense, said Patrick Boyle, executive director of ignite Long Island, a regional manufacturing consortium.

It reduces shipping costs, which is on the rise, and it “helps dealers know that products are around the corner, and they can rely on local product,” he said.

In addition, consuming products made on Long Island “gets trucks off the roads, bridges and tunnels, reducing the costs to ship locally,” Boyle said.

As much as “48 percent of the products made on Long Island are sold here on Long Island – one sector that shines is food and beverage,” he said. 

A gift basket by From Mary’s Kitchen with Love. (Photo courtesy of From Mary’s Kithcen with Love)

One such business is From Mary’s Kitchen with Love, providing Italian comfort food from a commercial kitchen at Lynbrook Culinary School in Lynbrook on Atlantic Avenue, the heart of the village’s downtown.  The company offers gift baskets with homemade sauce, pasta and recipe cards, as well as in-person and web-based cooking classes for those providing experiential gifts for the holidays.

Lisa Maggiore founded the company in June 2020, after retiring as a Hilton executive sales leader. She created the firm as a tribute to her Aunt Mary, who ran a catering business in which Maggiore’s mother and another aunt were integral.

“I literally grew up in this business,” Maggiore said.

Now she customizes meals to meet client preferences, even swapping out ingredients and using region-specific herbs to customize palate-pleasing meals for those hankering for particular flavors, or for those adhering to a specific way of eating, often for health reasons.  That’s not to say that she won’t prepare traditional meat lasagna on request.

Providing nourishing meals is important to Maggiore. Each week she volunteers at the soup kitchen at St. Mary’s Church in Long Beach. There, she prepares a take-out lunch for 80 people. For Thanksgiving, she carved 60 pounds of turkey, and served as the lead chef assembling Thanksgiving meals to serve 90.

And when working with clients, Maggiore personally delivers custom-prepared meals.  When offering classes, whether at client homes or at Lynbrook Culinary, she takes the time to understand what the home chef wants to prepare, providing all the ingredients for the two-hour instruction.

The end product of each cooking class is a “multicourse meal for two people to enjoy,” and recipes so that they can “do it again themselves,” Maggiore said. It’s a sentiment that says, “I appreciate we had this opportunity. Let’s carry it forward.”

PATRICK BOYLE: ‘Forty-eight percent of the products made on Long Island are sold here on Long Island.’ (Courtesy of Ignite LI.)

Carrying it forward seems ingrained into Melville-based John’s Crazy Socks, a provider of colorful and creative socks.  The company bills itself as a “father-son venture inspired by co-founder John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome.”

Currently, the company employs 40, with team members of differing abilities, Mark Cronin, the company’s co-founder said.

“We employ your neighbor, give to local charities and give tours,” working with special education departments from high schools across the region, Cronin said.

The company comprises a social mission in which 5 percent of earnings go to the Special Olympics, donating $106,000 to the organization last week.

“Our mission is to spread happiness,” Cronin said. “Everything we do is designed around that.”

That includes offering a fun selection of more than 3,000 pairs of socks. The socks are hand-packed with a thank-you note from co-founder John Cronin and candy as well as additional information. If there is an order that falls on John’s commute home from work, he’ll deliver it personally.

“Jeff Bezos isn’t doing that,” Mark Cronin said.

MARK CRONIN: ‘We employ your neighbor, give to local charities and give tours.’ (Courtesy of John’s Crazy Socks)

Meanwhile at Atelier Disset, a shop on Main Road in Cutchouge, where there is a small commercial area, unique offerings are aplenty for its holiday line of chocolates.

“Each collection we make at Disset Chocolate is thoughtfully crafted to reflect the true flavors of the holiday and/ or season we’re celebrating,” said the company’s owner, Ursula XVII, a Michelin-trained pastry chef.  “From babka for Hanukkah to butternut squash pie for Thanksgiving, we’ve turned our customers’ favorite dishes into deliciously decadent chocolate bites that are perfect for sharing with those around us.”

There are a host of local makers, from wineries to breweries, and even candle makers, including Sayville-based 90 Bourne for holiday shopping, Boyle said.

So shoppers have a lot to choose from, even amid the supply chain shortages, experts said.

Lisa Maggiore, right, is among the volunteers who donate time at a Long Beach soup kitchen.

What local businesses are about

Each year, chambers of commerce help rally the region’s small business communities. And this week the Long Island Association is offering its support by promoting Small Business Saturday, and giving shout-outs to its small business members who sign up for a social media boost.

These online media presences can prove valuable.

John’s Crazy Socks, for instance, boasts more than 29,000 online reviews, Cronin said, with 96 percent being five-star reviews that say “they take care of you.”

“That’s what local businesses are about,” Cronin said.

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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