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  • Judy Tighe, CMSM

Downtown Breathes Life into Business

Updated: Jul 15

Despite the variety of products and services offered, all these businesses (then and now) have several things in common: they employ local residents; they support local causes; they pay local taxes; they and their dedicated owners are integral parts of our community.

Just as our downtown – like many other towns – was where our city began, it is also where its businesses and commerce started.


Most of those establishments were locally owned and operated, with proprietors often living above their shops. The development of these businesses was vital to the growth of our town and directly impacted its appearance in many ways.


Likewise, most of the businesses offered services and products addressing needs of the day: saddles and leather goods were found at the saddlery; women’s hats were sold at the millenary (a ghost sign still indicates where that was!)


Some old businesses are still around in a different form: Walton’s Appliances and Rental, for example, changed locations and products over time, starting out in 1902 as a coal and ice delivery service before selling air conditioners in the 1950s and later electronics and appliances.


The Journal Courier is right where it always was, still publishing newspapers, though their footprint has expanded, and delivery/production methods have changed. The Farmers State Bank and Trust Company has been in its location for so long, many assume that it started there, but it moved there from another downtown location and continues to grow and change. The same holds true for the Morgan County Courthouse and County offices.


Other businesses, like Bound to Stay Bound Books, got started locally downtown and eventually grew and relocated to a larger facility. Car dealerships and gas stations also migrated to other parts of town as shopping trends changed.


Some have modified their name as well as their product line and location: The Main Street Trading Company was known for selling waterbeds when it was the General Store on East State Street, before relocating to its present location to sell furniture and jewelry.


Despite the variety of products and services offered, all these businesses (then and now) have several things in common: they employ local residents; they support local causes; they pay local taxes; they and their dedicated owners are integral parts of our community.


Just like today, as times and needs changed, so did the businesses, and those that survived modified their products and services accordingly. But today’s businesses face challenges that didn’t exist in the early days: internet buying and expanding retail market areas. Businesses often follow the buying habits of consumers, and when consumers go elsewhere to shop… the businesses go elsewhere too.


A recent article about a recent study by Independent We Stand offers hope for many local businesses in “brick and mortar” locations, though: “Total e-commerce sales across all lines of goods accounted for only 8.9 percent of all U.S. retail sales in 2017.”

Shop local isn’t just a trendy movement. It is a crucial message… your support of local businesses – especially small enterprises – is key to the growth and improvement of your town. We must put our money where our mouth is… better yet, put it where it truly matters: a local business.

These findings verify that for many items, “customers still want to inspect what they buy before committing and likely visit a trusted retailer for expertise and advice on purchases.” This is underscored by the numbers of people indicating disappointment with merchandise bought via the internet. Plus, shopping local had a 676% greater positive impact on local economies than buying on Amazon; and ordering online from an independent business has 130% higher impact than a from big box online.


Even more encouraging for the future of “brick and mortar” small businesses: other research indicates a rising desire for more people-to-people contact. In other words, shopping as a social activity that reduces screen time is a growing trend even in the tech-savvy crowd.


What does all this mean? Well, people are still making purchases at physical business locations… and liking it. Sure, businesses should respond to shopping trends and develop ways to utilize new technology to supplement sales… but a physical place to get goods and customer service is important.


And equally important are the people in these businesses… the entrepreneurs who pour their heart and soul into following their dream every day.


Owning a business isn’t easy… business operations are considered day and night, and there are few accolades or thanks offered, save the cash register ringing. Still, these valiant people – our local business community – do it anyway; riding out difficult times and striving for patronage, and for that perseverance, devotion, and intestinal fortitude – Jacksonville Main Street thanks you!


Shop local isn’t just a trendy movement. It is a crucial message… your support of local businesses – especially small enterprises – is key to the growth and improvement of your town. We must put our money where our mouth is… better yet, put it where it truly matters: a local business.


As a locally funded non-profit, Jacksonville Main Street dedicates all its resources to continually improving downtown… and a big part of that is creating an atmosphere that attracts more quality businesses and entrepreneurs that enrich the fabric of our community.


Join us at our Annual Meeting FUNdraiser on February 27 to learn more about what we are doing… and you could win a big prize! $35 tickets include dinner at Hamilton’s and entry into our Reverse Raffle… plus gives you the opportunity to get involved in continuing to make our downtown greater!

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Jacksonville Main Street

PO Box 152

Jacksonville, Illinois 62651

Email: info@jacksonvillemainstreet.com

Phone: 217-245-6884

Registered Charity: 37-1378193

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