December 9, 2020

How to Shop Local and Support Main Streets This Holiday Season

In a year that has presented one unique challenge after another due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it comes as no surprise that the holiday season is fraught with complexities. How to find seasonal cheer when social distancing… Where to get gifts when shopping. It all feels risky to yourself and others.

That last one is where we can help, at least a bit. Because Main Street America is a program of the National Trust, we are longtime supporters of local retail and its benefits to communities and historic places. And this year, our community retail needs support more than ever. Many small businesses are struggling due to pandemic restrictions that have required them to close for a time and/or dramatically limit capacity.

To stay afloat, businesses that were strictly bricks-and-mortar before the pandemic have opened online stores, and the Main Streets that they’re part of have taken notice and developed online portals that bring the stores into your living room. This has the added benefit of allowing small businesses a nationwide reach they might not have had before.

A view of Downtown Harrisonburg pre-pandemic.

photo by: Sarah Featherstone Photography

A view of Downtown Harrisonburg pre-pandemic.

For example, do you love the Windy City? If so, Chicago’s Urban Main site is a great place to start, with offerings including coffee, cupcakes, and other treats, as well as jewelry and handcrafted items from businesses on the city’s South Side.

In Washington, D.C., the Shop Made in D.C. website celebrates local artisans and entrepreneurs with more than 5,000 items that can be both picked up locally and shipped nationally.

Downtown Harrisonburg Renaissance located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, offers a local gift guide of a wide variety of items—many of which can be ordered online and shipped. Whether you’re in search of a Zero Waste Starter Kit, gourmet popcorn, hand-poured candles, or peppermint lip balm (and more!), Harrisonburg’s guide will get it to you.

The District in Quincy, Illinois, has taken their ChristKindl Market online, with shops including a craft brewery; upcycled furniture; handmade clothing, jewelry, and accessories; and custom wood creations. It’s an impressive array of shops offering pandemic-friendly wares.

photo by: Main Street America

Of course, these are just a few of the amazing offerings from Main Streets and small businesses nationwide. Not sure where to start in your local area? American Express and The Hartford both offer small-retail focused online directories, and Bookshop.org provides both indie bookstore listings and an online storefront for many shops.

As you shop, keep in mind that for many small businesses, online retail is a pivot from their usual way of doing business, and as such, it may take a bit longer to respond—and ship—than a massive online retailer. So plan ahead, and check shipping fees and deadlines, which will vary from shop to shop. And if you’re ordering online in your own community, make sure to check for curbside pickup. Thank you for shopping small this holiday season!

By purchasing some of these products, you'll be supporting preservation in your local community. Looking for other ways to support preservation? Consider giving a gift membership to the place-lover in your life.

Sarah Heffern, the National Trust's former director of social media, embraces all things online and pixel-centric, but she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having first fallen for historic places in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class.

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