What began as a way to provide for her family turned into a needed source of income that allowed single mom Karen Gerbman to be at home with her three little ones.
After 20 years in business, Chris and Karen Gerbman never tire of being their own boss – Karen opened The Country Gourmet two decades ago, and Chris owned The Clay Cup for nearly 8 years before closing it to focus on The Country Gourmet.
“She opened it back in 1991,” Chris Gerbman explained. “It was a home-based business and then for the last 15 of 20 years, we’ve been right here at 107 E. Main St. The business, of course, has changed over the years, but we basically sell specialty gifts, gift baskets and gourmet chocolates.”
The Gerbmans are neighbors to some, business owners to most and friends to anyone they meet. And they depend on local shoppers to support The Country Gourmet.
“We never planned it to be a get-rich-quick kind of thing; it’s just a lifestyle,” Gerbman continued. “If it was about the money, we could probably make more money if we were somewhere else (and) if we were doing something else but we love what we do, and we love that we get to do it in the place that we love -- downtown.”
Families across the nation wake themselves from Thanksgiving dinner food comas and flock to big box retailers in search of door busters and steep discounts on Grey Thursday and Black Friday.
Obviously, the prices are worth forgoing sleep, but there’s only one problem -- money spent at national chain stores doesn’t do much for the local economy. Sure, sales tax dollars are returned to the city and county, but most of it goes back to the franchise, headquarters or shareholders.
For every $100 spent at a locally owned, independent business, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures, according to the 3/50 Project, an initiative created to promote local spending. That same amount spent at a national chain results in only $43 returning to the community. Shopping online, albeit convenient, contributes nothing to the local economy.
Gerbman also pointed out that money spent at these big box retailers contributes to foreign economies, like China, rather than local or American economies.
“It’s your choice how you spend your money, but choose wisely,” he said, adding that shoppers may pay less for a TV, but will need to invest more taxes in local schools and roads.
He added that 3 cents of every dollars spent at a big box retailer stays in the community, while 13 cents of every dollar spent at a chain store stays in the community. Compare that with 68 cents of every dollar when spent at a locally-owned business.
Rallying behind small businesses is American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, which has declared Saturday as Small Business Saturday. Now in its second year, the day is dedicated to supporting the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country.
Small Business Saturday is a national movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S., according to smallbusinesssaturday.com.
With nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S. last year, independent shops are critical to the nation’s overall economy. Over the past two decades, they’ve created 65 percent of net new jobs, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Small business is the engine of job creation in the US economy,” Ken Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, stated in a press release. “It is also among the sectors hardest hit by the recession. By spreading the word about Small Business Saturday, we can help raise awareness about the critical role small businesses play in cities and towns across the country at a time when they need support the most.”
The Country Gourmet’s Chris and Karen Gerbman also support fellow small business owners.
“Karen and I have successfully avoided Walmart for the last seven and a half years, and we haven’t missed anything,” Chris Gerbman said. “Yes, it can be done. It does adjust your thinking a little bit … well, do I want to run over here to Kroger, where I know I can get hamburger for 12 cents less a pound, or do I want to go over here to Jr.’s (Foodland on Main Street) where they’re butchering the meat in the back. Yes, I’ll go to Jr.’s.”