Supporting Local Supports Manchester’s History

It’s a Friday night and you’re looking for something to eat-where do you go? You’re building a birdhouse and need some more nails-where can you get them? You’ve washed a shirt too many times and need to buy a new one-who has you covered? The answer is surprisingly the same for all of these questions: your favorite local business.

Manchester is home to a plethora of small businesses, all of which have combined to create a community that has endless options to explore. So often we rely on the access of goods from major corporations without giving our smaller businesses in town a chance. We all know the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has left on our small businesses, but I am here to remind you that shopping local is not a pandemic trend; it’s something that we should aim to do regularly.

Buying local is more than just supporting the business owners in town; it’s a domino effect that continues to grow with time the more we shop. Take the Town of Manchester’s Spruce Street Farmers Market, which hosts as many as 25 local vendors to supply the neighborhood with fresh produce, prepared foods and more. This may not be news for many, but the fact that all of these vendors exist outside of the market is something to remember. While these vendors are accessible during market nights, their products are always needed, so we need to continue supporting them outside of special events.

By buying local, you also keep our Manchester culture alive and thriving. Take the Manchester Mall for example, which has been a part of Manchester’s history for decades. From the outside, its vintage look would make it easy to believe it’s been around for so long. On the inside, there are many local businesses that sell both antique and modern accessories, clothing and even food.

TJ, owner of Rustic Cave, set up just days before Cruisin’ on Main Street so that his store front would draw in car lovers.

“I’ve been a collector for a long time, but I never wanted to sell in the beginning. I met this lady that used to have a spot here and she encouraged me to sell my products, and I’ve been in love with it ever since,” TJ said.

TJ owns two storefronts in town, but prefers his time spent at Rustic Cave, which allows him to create more connections with his customers.

“The end of the year is usually the best time of the year. A lot of people come in looking for personal gifts and we have everything they could need,” TJ said.

Parkade Cinemas, which first opened up in 1966 as a single-screen movie theater, is yet another piece of Manchester’s history. The current family ownership, who bought the theater’s property back in 2007, said that continuing the storied theater was a no-brainer. Since their purchase, they have steadily increased their operations and turned a single-screen operating movie theater into a six screen and live performance combo venue, adapting to the many needs of our community. While 2019 was their most successful year to date, the pandemic severely impacted their operations, and ownership has been fighting to get back on track. The only possible way this will happen is if we, as a community, continue to put money back into our people.

Unfortunately, we can see how a lack of support can cause businesses to shutter. The Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe, which has been around for nearly 61 years, has recently had to close their doors.

“The store has been a piece of the community’s lives…It took me months to make [the decision to close] and I was hoping things would bounce back, that people would support [local],” shop owner Erika Dworkin said.

When local stores such as these close, it cuts off supplies and necessities for populations that do not have means to access larger stores or distributors. People who are not connected to the internet and the convenience of online shopping, or those with language barriers who don’t feel comfortable straying from their local shops, can often become misplaced and unaware of how to get their necessities. With any closing business comes multiple jobs lost in the process, adding individuals to unemployment and misplacing yet another population.

“Peoples have been overwhelmed by the pandemic, just trying to get by and live their lives,” Dworkin said. “I have no resentment towards this, and I completely understand the circumstances, but this closing is very sad for the people who have depended on the store.”

It is painful to see the locally-owned businesses that have come to define our town shut their doors. These businesses are in danger of becoming forgetting and eventually erased from our public consciousness. I advocate for local businesses because every person has their own history and story to tell. We are all still hurting from this last year and trying to predict the future as it slowly unravels. As a community, we have to be there to support each other and understand we are all going through something incredibly difficult right now. Only as a Manchester community can we get through this.

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