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Bellefontaine Ohio Shop Local- Guest article by Michael Shepherd of Six Hundred DowntownThis is a guest article by Michael Shepherd, Owner of Six Hundred Downtown, 4 Time World Pizza Champion, Author, Industry Speaker, Pizzeria Consultant, Son, Dad, Husband and Regular Guy. Go Bucks!

As someone who has operated small pizzerias in small towns for the past 18 years I totally understand the importance of keeping and spending dollars locally. Additionally, in my humble opinion it is even more important to spend your money with independent locally owned businesses. Supporting locally owned independent businesses keeps the highest percent of dollars in the community and the more money that stays local - the stronger the community.

In addition to owning a pizzeria I am also a restaurant consultant. In my consulting business I all too regularly hear small business owners complaining about how the chains are killing them, how everyone is going out of town to shop and dine out, or how no one will come downtown anymore. The complaining ends up being the only real thing that they do about it.

We small, local businesses need to make sure that we are worthy of our customer’s hard earned money. I do not have the buying power of the massive chains and I do not have the endless resources of a multi-million dollar marketing budget. Because I am small and independent I will have higher prices (because of that lack of buying power) and because I have a family and because my staff has families I will have shorter hours (I want to be able to tuck my kids in at night), be closed on holidays (if I am taking Christmas off then my staff should too, and be open less (7 days a week will burn you out).

So what do I have to offer that will make you want to spend your money with me over the cheaper, more convenient, chain restaurants? Will the people of the community be willing to buy a more expensive, crappy pizza complete with horrible service just because I am a local business? No, and they shouldn’t! If I am serving bad pizza and giving bad service I should expect to eventually go out of business. If I offer the same product and same (or worse) service as my competitors and charge a higher price why should I expect people to patronize me?

If we want to keep customers out of the chains and get them into our shops - we better step up. I personally will gladly pay more to get a smiling face and great service, but if every time I try and stop by your shop you are closed when you are supposed to be open, you never return my messages and never have what I need in stock - I will gladly give Wal-Mart or Amazon my business. Your customers should first love you because you are AMAZING at what you do and secondly love the fact that they are giving money to a local business.

How do we step it up? Because we are small we can beat them on a level they can never compete at. Because we are small and local we can react faster. We can market more efficiently. We can be unique. We can give amazing service. We can have the advantage if we chose to take it. It is up to us to make our customers want to shop with us because we are better than our competitors. Never should we try and justify our higher prices because we are a small business. We should justify our higher process because we are awesome! Never should we try and shame our customers into shopping local. We should make it easier for them to choose on their own that we are the better option. The burden is on us to have superior quality, legendary service, and impeccable reputation.

Our customers should come to us because they can trust in our business. If we can give 150% and go that extra mile for our customers – then they will understand that we might be 10% higher. They will understand that you closed early today because your son had a doctor appointment. They will understand that you close for a week in July for vacation. They want your service and your products because you are awesome and you also happen to be a locally owned independent business that helps keep our community strong.
Posted 11:00 AM

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