With about two weeks to go until Christmas, we imagine most folks are still working through their holiday shopping lists. And since that is likely the case, we encourage everyone to renew their focus on shopping local this time of year.

Our local stores lost a lot of business earlier this year when we all went into lockdown over the spring due to the ongoing COIVD-19 pandemic. The lockdown also changed the shopping habits of everyone, as we started making even more of our purchases online.

As so many experts and elected officials tell us, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They need our support.

Local retailers also provide a safer in-person shopping opportunity. To begin, mask mandates are in effect and stores here are enforcing them. And people here are complying. We’ve seen it as we’ve been walking our downtown districts.

In Centreville, Main Street Manager Carol D’Agostino is helping local businesses forge ahead with an eGift card program that rolled out this week.

It’s interesting to see that people feel differently about the risk factor [of COVID], but with no expiration date they can use the gift cards now or later, or take advantage of those that offer delivery or curbside pickup options.

And the pace is slower and number of shoppers is much smaller when you shop in one a local stores, even on the weekends. There is certainly an advantage in a small town because it is quieter than going to the mall and going to some big box store places where there are mass amounts of people.

Our local stores have so much to offer for family members, for friends, for co-workers, for neighbors, for everyone on your gift list. And walking our downtowns and going in and out of our stores is fun — you might even see one of those people on your list as you go, or someone you forgot to put on it.

The customer service in our stores adds to that shopping experience. The teams in our local businesses are courteous and helpful. “We specialize in taking care of our customers,” said Prakash “Chikki” Shajwani, owner of Molly’s Place in Kennedyville.

Our local businesses also give back directly to our community. Shajwani spoke about the support they provide nonprofit organizations, schools, youth sports and more, saying “Local businesses pay back and reinvest in the community.”

We also join with the Maryland Department of Agriculture in suggesting you buying a local Christmas tree. “Christmas trees are an important agricultural crop in Maryland and many of our farmers work year-round to provide customers with a high-quality product,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder in a statement Dec. 2. “When you choose to buy locally you are helping support a Maryland farmer, boost the local economy, and help the environment.”

We encourage everyone to shop local this holiday season — and beyond.

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