Shop Local Mason County - Business Matters!

Small Business Week (SBW) traditionally occurs each year across the United States during the first week of May. During SBW, events take place across the country and online celebrating small business owners. It’s a way of recognizing their outstanding service, innovation and success. This annual celebration hosted by the Small Business Administration has been postponed this year as a result of COVID-19. Even so, the Chamber is choosing to carry on and champion small businesses in our community this week (official or not). Let us be your guide to all the ways its possible – and important – to shop local and shop Mason County.

A business is deemed small if it has under 500 employees and approximately 30.2 billion such businesses exist in the U.S. Nearly half of them have fewer than five employees, but collectively they provide work for 55% of the total American workforce. They create nearly two out of every three new jobs. By the numbers, entrepreneurs and small business owners are the backbone of our national and local economies. We know that local businesses face unique challenges even in the best of times. A pandemic shutdown certainly wasn’t penciled into our 2020 plans! Yet, here we are in a situation where the entire country is required to connect in new ways and revive campaigns such as #ShopLocal. Local business matters. A bustling town like ours has lots of businesses that create character and close-knit connections, but without demand, it doesn’t continue to exist.

The Bard’s Bounty, a newcomer to downtown Shelton, opened its eatery and entertainment venue to fill a void. Owner Joel Underwood says he and his wife, Amy (the chef), wanted to open a place of their own once the kids were in college and chose Shelton for its true downtown feel. “We looked at other towns, but we envision being a cornerstone of the Railroad Avenue strip,” says Underwood. “Think of small towns where music is the mecca of their scene. When an area has a strong arts foundation, it’s recession proof. We hope to become a destination for live acoustic music with fantastic food.” He adds, “Getting the word out been easy thanks to the small size of the town and a true local newspaper. The harder part is being forced to limit sales strictly to carryout for now, as well as overcoming the impression of the business that occupied the space before.” Underwood points out being a Chamber member helps with that, “The Chamber established the Mason County Take-out & Delivery Options which has single-handedly probably generated HALF our quarantine business!”

Meanwhile, Cameo Boutique and Wine Shop in Union has been a destination ever since Pam Hanson opened the doors 37 years ago on April Fool’s Day. She moved here in the 1960’s and started working at age 15. “It was always a dream to have my own business,” she says. “I began as an executive buying service before my time and when I saw a tiny space for lease, I took the opportunity. It’s expanded over time and we purchased our location in 1986.” Today, the sprawling retail space sells unique gifts, décor, women’s clothing, children’s items, books, cards, gourmet snacks, and an array of wines. “We try to have something for everyone in all price ranges,” Hanson explains. “Shopping local is critical. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. We listen to our customers and are always bringing in new inventory. Personalized service is our mainstay.” Cameo is true to our area selling PNW themed items and features local artists and authors. Even their wine selection includes a regional offering, including Hood Canal labeled bottles. Longevity or not, struggling through this mandated closure has been difficult and the shop is figuring out ways to sell merchandise curbside. Typically, this time of year is prime for holding wine tastings, open houses and fashion shows.

Melanie Bakala, owner of our local State Farm insurance agency, understands the need to buy local. “Shelton is my home,” she declares enthusiastically. “Shelton welcomed me with open arms when I started my business ten years ago. I have so much gratitude, I want to give back.” Honestly, she has a hard time saying no when solicited for donations and proudly contributes to Turning Pointe Survivor Advocacy Center. She will also donate $25 “Community Bucks” on behalf of anyone who simply calls for a quote. She realizes anyone can buy a policy online, but why? “When something goes wrong, who are you going to talk to?” Bakala asks. “Would you rather call an 800 number or have a local agent show up? We protect people at the worst possible time. We’re in this together.”

Inclusion is exactly what takes place Mason County Senior Activities Association. The organization relies entirely on local funding and memberships to provide health and wellness programs, designed to enhance the quality of life for senior adults in our community. The senior center hosts ongoing education, recreation and social activities while our area Meals on Wheels program is run from their kitchen. Residents who attend monthly events like bingo karaoke and shop at its Nifty Thrifty store help keep the doors open; but the rest of their budget is made up of cash donations generously provided by our businesses and residents. “The senior center is very much needed,” says Patti Vernie, executive director. “People may not realize when you retire, you are cut off from work routines and meaningful daily interactions being at home inside four walls. We are all experiencing that right now during Stay Home, Stay Healthy. You want to stay active, be with friends, and socialize. We fill that void.”

It’s easy to support Chamber businesses throughout Mason County. For instance, #ShopMasonCounty by visiting our local hardware store before heading to the big-box retailer in Olympia. Stop by a nearby market for locally sourced shellfish that other towns envy. Buy produce from farms down the road and wine/beer/spirits at craft distilleries or boutiques. Use a local beauty advisor, bank, mechanic, financial advisor, insurance agent, internet company, or tradesman. Whatever you need – it’s here! We also have casinos, a racetrack and a few golf resorts to take in. There are lots of savory local restaurants, food trucks, bars with nightlife, and a town taxi to take you home. Don’t forget about hometown publications, fitness studios, musicians, instructors, outdoor adventure, and education activities that count on our recurring subscription payments. Last, but not least, we have numerous non-profits committed to donating time and resources to residents in need. There is a place to turn for food, housing, healing, health services, safety, worship and elderly companionship.

Finding these places and opening your wallet here – instead of elsewhere – is how you support local. The Chamber has publications, brochures, shopping guides, maps, and more that can help acquaint you with all our area has to offer. Bookmark our website and check back frequently to view our community-wide event calendar. Give us a call at (360) 426-2021 for direct referrals.

Be sure to visit our Facebook page each day this week to enter our #SmallBusinessSelfie contest for a chance to win prizes. Each day we will link you to members that we are proud to promote! One random name will be selected each day during #SmallBusinessWeek and that person will receive a hometown gift card and must-have swag from some of our favorite places!

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