At a press conference Wednesday morning, the chamber announced nominees for its local business of the year award and the kick-off of its Shop Local initiative – a campaign to keep money and jobs in the local economy.
“Eighty percent of our membership is considered small business,” said Julia Segars, the chairwoman of the chamber. “The month of May is time for us to say ‘thank you’ to these businesses.”
Segars said an estimated $68 of every $100 spent at local businesses stays in the local economy. She also said tax dollars used to buy everyday things like groceries and gas go back into supporting community facilities and agencies.
Wednesday’s announcement coincides with small business month, an annual event the chamber began recognizing 10 years ago. Last year the chamber expanded the small business awareness from a week to the whole month of May.
“Just in the four years I’ve been here this has grown so much,” said Angela Kemp, the chairwoman for business development at the chamber. “Back then I think we had maybe 10 nominees, if that, for business of the year. This year we have 17.”
Among the nominees for the business of the year award, which is split into two categories for emerging businesses and sustaining businesses, is Sweet Peas Boutique in Oxford. Valerie Winfrey, the owner of the shop that’s operated for almost four years, said her boutique has the advantage over larger department stores by being able to get the latest fashions ahead of time and adding a personal, ever-changing touch to their products.
“Our customers love that they can come here and see things they can’t find at the larger stores in the area,” Winfrey said.
Promoting “quirky, alternative” businesses is a mainstay of a small city local economy, said Larry May, the owner of Anniston’s CD Cellar, a nominee for the sustaining business of the year award. May said the music industry took a huge hit in the middle part of the last decade, but expanding into selling more vinyl records and clothing, as well as a move downtown through the help of the chamber has kept business thriving for the small record store.
“We’re very involved with the chamber, and we try to get as much out of it as we can,” May said. “In this community, I think the chamber is a business owner’s best friend.”
Chamber events scheduled for May include a “Chamber Mob” day at the Jacksonville Bookstore, where customers can get discounts if they mention the chamber, and “Shop $20 on the 20” encouraging residents to spend $20 at a local business. The month will end with the chamber’s Small Business Gala at the Anniston Country Club on May 30, where the winners of the business of the year awards will be announced.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.