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Our View: It's your business - why not shop there?

How many of you recall Pete Plankers at the old Ben Franklin store on Cloquet Avenue? And how about Kenneth Johnson or Tom Prevost and Kenny Young at The Johnson Company just down the street? Or, just a hop, skip and a jump down the block, Jack Carter at Carter Appliance, John Buskala (or his dad) at Buskala Jewelry, or Don Erickson at Erickson's Hardware?

And if you still remember those people and businesses, you will no doubt recall how Pete Plankers always had a joke at the ready, or how Tom Prevost could be counted on to give a piece of candy to your kids from his "private stash," or the time Jack showed up to repair your refrigerator on the day before Christmas when you had a houseful of company coming, or the day John sold an engagement ring to your son (just like he did to you) or the time Don kept the store open an extra 15 minutes just so you could swing by after work.

That's what small, locally owned businesses are all about. The fact that those of you who were around back then still remember those faces and kindly gestures -- even though many of those faces are no longer here -- belies the fact that business is more about establishing personal relationships with customers than offering big, glitzy advertising campaigns, door buster specials or truckloads of merchandise.

It's the old "Cheers" philosophy of doing business "where everyone knows your name." You know the person behind the counter (and likely their family as well) and have done business with them before. You know they will stand by the merchandise they sell, and you know that follow-up service is just a phone call away (sometimes even on the weekend!).

That kind of hometown service isn't a thing of the past, however. It's alive and well among the small businesses throughout our county. The Johnson Company is gone but Scott Boedigheimer and his sons at Dougherty Appliance, located in the same building, are still doling out friendly conversation and personal service. John Buskala is still selling engagement rings and repairing watches for yet another generation of customers, and Linda Erickson, daughter-in-law of Don, is now the friendly face behind the counter at Erickson Hardware.

We are fortunate indeed to have as many small businesses as we do here in Carlton County, contributing to the area's economy and offering the sort of unique service and merchandise that only small businesses can offer.

When you're tempted to get up from the table early this Thanksgiving Day to drive somewhere else to go shopping on Black Friday, or if you've decided to log on and do all of your shopping online this holiday season, take a moment to remember your friends just down the street and consider shopping at our local small businesses instead. Tell them a friend sent you.

Wendy Johnson