An independent retailer is one who builds their business without the help of an established brand. You see them most often concentrated in downtowns, and increasingly in small strip centers. An independent retailer is usually a single store, or perhaps a few stores, but is not big enough to have a separate headquarters. It is usually operated by the owner, and perhaps a few employees.

According to economic studies, local small businesses are linked to higher local incomes and less inequality. Locally-owned businesses foster community cohesion and well-being. The money spent in a locally-owned store stays in the community and adds to the local economy to a much higher degree than when spent in “big box” stores.

The Fargo-Moorhead area is blessed with many of these shops, and they add significantly to the economic vibrancy of the area. You are no doubt familiar with these shops…jewelry stores, gift stores, book shops, ice cream shops, cookie shops, bakeries, bagel shops, bistros and restaurants, men’s clothing stores, women’s clothing stores, children’s clothing stores, art galleries, athletic gear shops, bike shops, second hand shops, record stores, flower shops, and many, many more. These small retailers rely on the communities to support them, and our communities would be kind of boring without them! They, not the big box stores, are what make a community unique. Support your locally-owned independent retailer, this month and every month. Shop local!

SCORE salutes independent retailers. You can also help by joining SCORE. SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals. We provide free counseling, workshops, and resource materials to help independent retailers grow their businesses and achieve their goals. For more information on how you can volunteer visit www.score.org.

Mike Benson and Del Carver are co-chairs of Fargo SCORE. Carver also serves as district director of North Dakota SCORE.

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This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.