Why you should always visit small businesses while traveling

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When you think of the phrase small business, a certain destination probably comes to mind, and probably a nostalgic one. It can be a family restaurant in your hometown, a neighborhood cafe that never ceases to make you feel welcome and knows your order from memory, or a specialty store that always has the perfect gift for any occasion. For me, it’s Proud Mary’s Restaurant in Dana Point, California, the harbor front restaurant where I spent many childhood mornings enjoying stacks of silver dollar pancakes with my family and friends. I can imagine exactly the interior even though I haven’t visited it in years and although some elements may have changed over the years, I’m sure the next time I come back they will fill me with memories; and I will know exactly what to ask for.

This is what makes small businesses special; they are rooted in sentimentality. And while many of us associate small businesses with our hometowns or our current neighborhoods, there is no shortage of reasons to visit locally owned businesses when you travel. After all, what’s better than living a new town or village through the lens of a local when you visit a restaurant or shop that loves the surrounding community. Why should you visit local businesses when traveling? We count the ways:

These are just some of the reasons why sponsoring small businesses, including hotels, restaurants and shops, when you visit a new place will enhance your travel experience, but the actual scope is much wider, especially when we see the effects on long-term pandemic of COVID-19 to small business owners across the country.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has been tough for small businesses across the country. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a sample of more than 5,800 small businesses in the U.S., 41.3 percent reported that they closed their doors temporarily due to COVID-19 between March 28 and on April 4, 2020, shedding light on the uncertainty of the early days of the pandemic. These losses and closures have been especially hard on BIPOC business owners. A report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “losses for companies owned by women, racial minorities and immigrants were especially severe,” in a sample taken from February to June 2020.

At the same time, we have also seen the power of passionate local communities gathering around their favorite small businesses, as well as those institutions that find creative and thought-out ways for COVID-19 to relate to customers. We have seen new wider takeaway menus when dinner was not an option, takeaway drinks to take the happy hour on the go and traditional shops opening online stores to reach their customers near and far. . And as much as the pandemic has been for small businesses, the last 18 months have also seen tremendous growth for businesses and their owners. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 4.4 million new businesses were created in the U.S. by 2020, an increase of 51% over the decade average.

Somehow, one could say that this country is based on small businesses, be it a cafe, a separate bookstore, a bed and breakfast or a dive bar, and the support of the community is largely what keeps them going. let’s go. And when you travel, there’s nothing better than visiting these companies to get an idea of ​​what a destination is like from a local perspective. As a traveler, there are many ways to learn about the local culture of a destination. For example, staying in a locally owned hotel not only supports the local economy, but you will also have the opportunity to ask the concierge about your favorite places in the city. Similarly, when shopping with local entrepreneurs, you will be able to learn about the history and popular industries of the area, further contextualizing the cultural fabric of a destination.

Take Pearl River Mart, for example, an institution in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. It is a place where locals buy snacks, household items and clothes made for both daily use and special occasions. For T + L, Kayla Hui wrote about how she visited Pearl River Mart last winter to buy a real cheongsam to prepare for the Chinese New Year. The immigrant-owned store has become a haven for New York’s American Chinese community, offering products that remind them of home, while offering other shoppers a window into the world of what makes Chinese immigrants feel at home in the Big Apple. It hasn’t always been easy, however, the store has had to move several times due to the gentrification of the area, forcing them to fight for their place at home in Manhattan. However, Pearl River Mart is the perfect example of the diversity of the New York City retail scene and the feeling that whatever you are looking for, you can probably find it here.

In fact, Pearl River Mart president Joanne Kwong commented on the benefit of bringing its multicultural offering to the wide audience of New York City residents and visitors. “You have people coming in, they have a chance to interact with you, to see you as people,” he said. “And if they bring something home, it stays at home and it’s something they remember for decades.”

Harriett’s Bookshop in Philadelphia, PA is another place loved by both locals and first-time visitors. Located in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood, Harriett’s celebrates women authors, artists and activists. The store is named after abolitionist Harriett Tubman, and founder Jeannine A. Cook says customers have called it a “literary sanctuary.” In fact, Cook’s presence is what makes people come back and, in turn, builds a loyal fan base.

“She constantly sees Jeannine in Philadelphia as an activist, handing out free books, [and] organizing events, “said Eric Smith, author, literary agent and fan of Harriett.” Books can be a catalyst for change, and so can bookstores as well. Jeannine is proof of that. ”

When it comes to accommodation, staying in a locally owned hotel offers an invaluable experience if you want to understand a destination from the point of view of someone who actually lives there. Pattea Torrence opened The Bee’s Knees Fruit Farm and Farm Stay in San Luis Obispo in 2018 after running a handful of other successful businesses in the area, so she’s no stranger to sharing her passion for the natural beauty of the central coast. “Everything here is so spacious, there’s so much beauty everywhere,” he said of the farm. Torrence’s passion for her stay on the farm is clearly seen in her willingness to share it with others, making it a must-stop on a trip to San Luis Obispo and something for members of the community be proud.

As we look to a new era of travel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a variety of new factors to consider. Beyond finding a protective vaccination card holder, having a comfortable mask on hand, and making sure you book your trip in a place open to visitors, many of us are reevaluating what we want to draw from our travel experiences.

If your travel priorities have changed since the pandemic began, you may want to consider visiting small businesses during your next trips. Whether it’s a locally owned restaurant that gets ingredients from nearby farms or a shop that highlights the artisans who live in the area, visiting these types of small businesses is a sure way to enhance your trip and allow you to experience a destination. from a completely new perspective. It is these small businesses, after all, that make us who we are, and that applies to both our hometowns and our favorite vacation destinations.

Madeline Diamond is a Brooklyn-based ecommerce writer on Travel + Leisure, and is constantly fighting the urge to pack too much for her next trip. You can follow her on Twitter @madgdiamond and Instagram @madelinediamond.

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