Weekly Column

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From buying Christmas gifts for friends and family to taking advantage of Black Friday deals, the holidays are usually the busiest time of the year for retailers. The biggest single day, Black Friday, is already behind us, but eight of the 10 historically busiest shopping days fall between December 1 and New Year’s Day.

Due to the pandemic, more Americans are shopping online than ever, and the economic slowdown has forced many families to scale back their spending. This affects all businesses, but small ones are especially vulnerable.

Fortunately, the Paycheck Protection Program Congress created in March has been successful in our state. It helped save over 327,000 Nebraska jobs, and it paid out over $3.4 billion to more than 44,000 Nebraska employers.

Despite this much-needed relief, our small businesses still need our support. The holiday season offers a wonderful opportunity to help Nebraska businesses with our purchases, so from now until the end of this year, let’s shop local.

Dean Dvorak, the owner of a poultry distribution company called Plum Creek Farms, understands how important this is. In October, he opened Plum Creek Farms Countryside Market in Waterloo, which sells their chicken alongside products from many other local businesses.

From decorative towels to candles to local honey, 99% of what they offer is made right here in Nebraska. KMTV recently profiled them for their “Shop the Heartland for the Holidays” series, which is an excellent place to find other Nebraska businesses that deserve our support.

According to Dean, his market wouldn’t exist if we weren’t living through a pandemic. Plum Creek Farms’ sales were down this year, but instead of giving up, he chose to adapt.

So many other Nebraska business owners have found new ways to do business this year as well. Among them are Stan and Judy Meyer of Beatrice, who own the local Ashley Furniture HomeStore.

On November 21, they celebrated their store’s 50th anniversary with a unique sale. All of the day’s proceeds went to a local food pantry and the Willow Women’s Pregnancy Resource and Adoption Center, two causes the Meyers strongly believe in. And because they run a furniture store, they also donated 50 mattresses to children in need.

The cities of Grand Island and Norfolk have pioneered innovative “passport” programs that allow residents to stamp a card each time they visit local businesses. In Grand Island, once you visit all participating businesses, you can pick up a canvas tote bag filled with coupons and product samples. Their program originally ran until the end of October, but the city has extended the deadline until December 21 to account for the recent nationwide surge in coronavirus cases and give customers more time to safely complete the challenge.

Like KMTV, the Lincoln Journal-Star has also launched a campaign to support Nebraska businesses. It’s called the “Shop Local Pledge,” and once you sign up on their website, you’ll be eligible to win gift cards and other prizes from participating local companies.

I encourage you to take the pledge and join me in shopping local this holiday season. And while you’re shopping, I urge you to keep in mind that this pandemic is not over. Please wear a mask and maintain a distance of six feet from others, and if you feel sick, please stay home. Our success against this virus depends on the choices each of us make, and when we choose to follow these guidelines, we’re choosing to help save lives.

No matter how you shop, remember that every dollar you spend in our local stores goes toward helping our small business owners make ends meet. That’s important every year, but it’s crucial as we near the end of this one.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.