Thanks to American Express for sponsoring my writing today about small businesses. American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27. They’re offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for “Likes” of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook. Join the celebration by clicking the “Like” button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.
New York City is a notorious melting pot – of people, cultures, ethnicities, religions and businesses. The big box stores have slowly begun to move in, national chains have taken over major storefronts, but New York is thankfully still full of small businesses that make our city unique, colorful and most importantly, personal. One of these businesses is my neighborhood eyeglasses and optical store, The Eye Man.
Both of my daughters wear glasses. One thing I’ve learned in the 3 years my daughters have worn glasses is that kids are constantly breaking, twisting, dropping and scratching their glasses. If there’s a way to dislodge a microscopic screw by tapping it against the edge of a desk my daughters will do it. Having a neighborhood eye store isn’t just a perk – it’s a necessity. I have gone to The Eye Man with my daughter in tears, convinced that the mauled mass of wires that used to be beautiful frames were now destroyed, only to come back the next day and be given back the frames in shiny perfection. When we walk through the front door, which we do at least twice a month, we get the look of empathy – “the don’t worry we’ll fix it” grin. My daughters head straight to the jelly bean dispenser in the back and the sales staff immediately take the injured glasses to the magic area behind the wall where somehow, miraculously, all turns out well. And, they fix the glasses for free, every time. That’s what a family owned business that has been around for over 30 years looks like – they know their customers because they are part of the authentic fabric of the neighborhood.
I never thought about how integral small businesses are to the success of a community until I went door to door soliciting donations for my daughters’ public school auction. The small business owners gave readily and were proud to support a school whose families they saw everyday. They knew how dire our budget cuts were, how vital the fundraising was to the success of the school and its students, and essentially understood that we are one community giving to each other in countless ways. In contrast, the national chain outlets in our neighborhood maybe passed along a phone number at some corporate office and shrugged. They had no power to give and no real desire to either.
I make a point to support the small businesses in my neighborhood and in particular those that support our school because when they support our school they support the local children and families. Of course that is good business – after all those families are their customers. Feeling connected to each other and recognizing the ways in which a strong community can build upon itself are what makes New York City neighborhoods distinct and still pretty special in a world increasingly becoming over run with sameness. The Eye Man is one store that exemplifies this small business ethos and I’m happy to highlight it today. Of course tomorrow I’ll probably be in there with a pair of mortally wounded glasses hoping once again for an Eye Man ER miracle.
Please join us in supporting Small Business Saturday by visiting the Facebook page and “liking” them!