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Small businesses enhance, make communities more diverse

The Small Business Administration defines small businesses as firms with less than 500 employees.

first avenue in downtown jamestown busy two 032522.jpg
First Avenue in Jamestown is busy with the addition of many small specialty shops and restaurants stretching across the downtown.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – Small businesses employ many Americans and enhance and make a city or town more diverse while creating a local tax base that has a ripple effect throughout a community, according to Alison Ritter, North Dakota National Federation of Independent Business director.

Ritter said having places to shop and eat make a community more vibrant, livable and enjoyable. She said small businesses provide services that people are looking for so they don’t have to go elsewhere or use online retailers.

“Small businesses are really what hold communities together,” she said.

The Small Business Administration defines small businesses as firms with less than 500 employees.

In North Dakota, 98.8% of the businesses are small businesses that employ over 196,000 employees, or 56.7% of the state’s workers, according to statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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In the U.S., 99.9% of the businesses are small businesses that employ 46.8%, or 61.2 million, of the country’s workers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Small businesses create a local tax base by employing people who live in the community and shop local and pay income and property taxes, which benefits schools, park boards and other entities, Ritter said.

“The businesses they work for are economic engines themselves by utilizing other small businesses for goods and services and pay sales taxes on those goods and services,” she said.

Jamestown Tourism frequently gets calls from visitors who are looking for unique shopping experiences, said Searle Swedlund, executive director. Because of the frequent calls, Jamestown Tourism lists “unique shops” to find “unique items” on a page of its website.

Swedlund said visitors have a great experience when they go somewhere and want to remember that place and bringing home a souvenir is often the key to do that.

“Visitors today are looking for that regional item that reflects the culture and heritage of a place,” he said. “So many of our unique shops in Jamestown have used that model and again, it is just so advantageous from the visitors' point of view because that is what they are looking for.”

Many of the small businesses in downtown Jamestown are unique to the community and cannot be found anywhere else in the city, said Lynn Lambrecht, president of the Jamestown Downtown Association.

“There is not another Jonny B’s (Brickhouse) anywhere else. There is not another Davoni’s anywhere else,” she said. “The only place they are going to find those unique spots are in downtown Jamestown.”

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She said having small businesses downtown that offer unique items and experiences makes it more pedestrian friendly, which in turn creates great shopping experiences when people get to walk from one store to the next. In downtown Jamestown, people can spend the day shopping at multiple stores, have a drink at a bar or get a coffee at Babb’s Coffee House and get something to eat at one of the local restaurants.

She said events in the summer such as the Downtown Arts Market at the Hansen Arts Park and Rods & Hogs & Things that go VROOM! have brought attention to the downtown area as a good location to start a business.

“The more activities that we can have and the more things for people to do the longer we keep them down there, which also of course translates into more sales for the businesses,” she said.

Ritter said small business owners understand what other small business owners are going through and support each other by purchasing services or goods from one another. For example, an employee at a hair salon might eat at a local restaurant and a business owner might get a haircut at that hair salon.

“They (small business owners) are going to support those like-minded folks and those businesses just like them,” she said.

Swedlund said the difference between large and small businesses is one offers a convenience and the other offers an experience.

“Almost always our small businesses rely on the idea that what they are offering is so different and so special that the loyalty and the nature of how they deliver that experience is what will keep the customer coming back time and time again,” he said.

Lambrecht said many businesses in downtown Jamestown are owned and operated by the business owner while most own the property as well.

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“I would say 80% of the businesses downtown actually own their own property,” she said.

She said there is a science to a downtown renaissance. When storefronts are empty in the downtown area, people will not pay attention to anything else in the area because there is nothing to look at.

Once the storefronts are filled, she said people have a reason to see what is in the area, even if it isn’t anything that interests them. Once one building is filled it draws people’s attention to the next storefront.

“Junk in the Trunk has been a fabulous business for downtown because it drives people that are interested in antiques, people that are interested in upcycling, which is also very good for Sabir’s (Buffalo Grill) right next to it because then it’s like, ‘OK, we are going to go antiquing then go have lunch at Sabir’s,’” she said. “And then the next store down, Home Design Center, Jerry’s Furniture, they all kind of feed into, ‘I’m going to stop at this store and there is another one I see now.’”

Click here to read stories from this year's Progress Edition.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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