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La Grange store owners lead shop local campaign

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 12:11 p.m. CDT
(Alex Ruppenthal - aruppenthal@shawmedia.com)
The Runner's Soul owner Jayne Aspan received a "shop small" welcome mat just in time for Small Business Saturday, a nationwide event promoting small businesses that registered $5.5 billion in sales at local shops last year. Aspan and her employees always thank customers for shopping local as they leave.

LA GRANGE – About a year ago, Jayne Aspan started throwing fliers in the bags customers took home from her downtown La Grange running store. 

In a few bullet points, the quarter-sheet of paper told customers what they’d just done by shopping local, such as helping maintain local jobs and reinvesting in their community,

“It works. This card works,” Aspan said. “They come back a week later [and buy something].”

Fellow running store owners have recreated Aspan’s “shop local” flier and are also reaping the rewards, she said. One of Aspan’s next projects might include getting other area stores involved to spread the message.

Even as Amazon.com and other online retailers offer more and more products consumers can purchase from their couch with one click, small businesses like Aspan’s The Runner’s Soul at 5 S. La Grange Road still provide something a website can’t – live human beings who might shake your hand or, if you know them well, even offer a hug.

American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 to promote local commerce and give small stores a fighting chance against big retailers between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

On Nov. 30, the date of this year’s event, The Runner’s Soul displayed Aspan’s shop-local message in multiple places: On a sign outside the door, on a mat in the entryway and behind the register counter on a board that read: “THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING LOCAL.”

A number of La Grange businesses offered special Small Business Saturday deals to kick off the holiday shopping season. On Small Business Saturday in 2012, an estimated $5.5 billion was spent at small businesses throughout the country.

“I think what American Express is doing is fantastic,” Aspan said. “ … I think small businesses just appreciate it because it really builds awareness of what it means to have community stores.”

Aspan recalls a situation where her hygienist was complaining that she spent an hour at a department store trying on shoes and left with nothing, frustrated by slow service and her lack of luck. Aspan asked her if she knew there was a running specialty store in her town, to which the woman replied, “Oh yeah, but they’re so much more money.”

That, Aspan said, is usually not the case. Sure, she said, from time to time an online deal is just too good to pass up. But, most of the shoes and running gear Aspan sells cost about the same price online. 

After correcting her, Aspan told the woman about her running store. 

“That was on a Wednesday. On a Saturday, [she] came in. Ten minutes later, she got a hug and a free pair of socks [and shoes] and off she went,” Aspan said. “She was the happiest person in the world.”

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