Island industries need our support today

By Linda Bianchi

For The Beachcomber

When I agreed last year to run for the position of president of the Vashon-Maury Chamber of Commerce, I was well aware of the problems related to our national declining economy, but was not totally prepared for the seriousness of the downturn that would coincide with the beginning of my tenure.

Although our local economy still remains in better shape than many other areas of the country, that is only because the national crisis over the past couple of years had not fully caught up with the greater Seattle area.

We are now beginning to experience what the rest of the nation has been going through. The current financial crisis has affected businesses across the board, from large corporations to small local, community businesses. Every business owner is reviewing his or her budget carefully to remove excess spending and hopefully increase income. Many are narrowly holding on.

And yes, there are many businesses on Vashon and Maury islands that are in this position. These hardworking entrepreneurs provide local jobs for our community and generously give substantial amounts of money and time to support our local nonprofits. When they are forced to close their doors, it is not only the business owner that suffers, but the entire community.

Hopefully, you read the wonderful series of articles written by Will North in The Beachcomber this past year.

In his last article titled, “The Anatomy of Home,” Will writes: “Each of us has stumbled upon places that possessed an almost magical sense of rightness — a condition that we are hard pressed to describe solely by means of the material elements of which they are composed.”

“The spirit of place” is everywhere on this Island. We just need to honor it.

What does that word “honor” mean in economic terms on Vashon Island?

How many times have you attended a local fundraiser with a list of sponsors? Honor those sponsors by using their services or products and thanking them for their donation. How many times have you walked or driven by our retail stores, restaurants or other services without recognizing the importance of their position in your community? Honor those businesses and their owners by using their products or services.

How many times have you shopped for similar products or services in the city that could have been purchased on the Island? Honor Vashon businesses by making a candid choice to shop locally. These hardworking business owners would be thrilled to help you with your special purchase or provide you with their services.

According to some analyses, 75 percent of each dollar that you spend in an Island business stays in the community.

One small retail owner told me that she would not survive if not for visitors from off Island shopping in her store. She has fabulous, well-priced items for sale!

Do we honor her and our community when we do not even stop by to see what she is selling?

Several of our well-known businesses have already closed their doors, including the Homegrown Café, Back Bay Inn and Napa Auto Parts. How many more closed doors do we want to see?

Spring is around the corner, and many of us are starting to emerge from our winter hibernation. Buds are forming on the trees, crocuses are blooming, and it is even starting to stay light into the evening. As you begin to rediscover this beautiful place we call home, remember that the “spirit of place” includes our local businesses and that the honor of your presence would be very much appreciated.

So, now that I have made a plug for Islanders to shop locally, I would like to encourage our businesses to do their part. Does your interior or exterior space need some sprucing up? Is your Web site updated and user-friendly? Do your employees greet their customers with a smile and desire to help? If you provide a service, do you show up on time? Are your items or services competitively priced to compete with city prices? Are you involved in community activities where locals can get to know you?

Running a business is never easy, and now more than ever businesses need to learn to compete for the shoppers who are still willing to buy.

I am looking forward to the next two years while I guide the chamber during this most critical time. My goal is to serve the business community of Vashon by cultivating an environment for all businesses and organizations to prosper.

— Linda Bianchi is an owner and real estate agent at Windermere and president of the Vashon-Maury Chamber of Commerce.

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