Shop, dine and play in downtown Washington

Published 12:19 am Sunday, May 26, 2013

What makes a community a great place to live? There are a myriad of factors, arguably thousands of ingredients that, when combined, make one community stand out over another.
Washington is a community that stands above the rest. We can all recite Washington’s obvious attributes, like the Pamlico River or its charming historic district, larger than many others in the state. But when considering Washington’s appeal many forget to list its best asset:  the downtown community of businesses.
Washington is fortunate to benefit from the great support of a group of individuals who have chosen Washington in which to work every day, investing not only their money but their daily lives. These people play a vital role in maintaining Washington’s distinct character. They are the caretakers of the community. Each independent downtown business takes pride in its specialty, be it serving the best hamburger, showcasing the best selection of local art or offering the best unique gift for a special person in your life. The level of commitment and dedication to personal service found in these businesses, and in the people who own and operate them, is truly a rare treasure.
Many of us can cite firsthand a downtown business that has supported your child’s softball team or donated products to raffle for an important cause. Our business owners come together to promote Washington and one another. It is to be celebrated that Washington has an active and vibrant commercial aggregate that is committed to the support and success of our local community. Look around and you’ll see that can’t be said of just any town.
Many folks don’t realize that when you shop or dine downtown your money has a multiplier effect! Two studies — one in Austin, Texas, the other in Maine — compared locally owned businesses with nationally owned book stores as far as their impact on their local economies. They reached similar conclusions: $100 spent at a national retailer yielded a return of about $15 to the local economy. However when that same $100 is spent with a local retailer it returns about $45 or three times as much income to the local economy. When further defined, these returns from the national chain store were usually in the form of lower-level service job wages.  That’s a huge difference, and one you can make right here in your own backyard.
Many factors are at work here. While big box stores have a role in community, the large national chain stores don’t buy local services or goods in most cases. On the other hand the local stores do use local services such as accountants, bookkeepers, advertising, legal services, possibly office supplies and many other small incidental expenses.
Washington Harbor District Alliance has created a campaign to remind people in Beaufort County to shop and dine in downtown Washington. When you see our friendly reminders to SHOP, DINE and PLAY in the Washington Harbor District, remember how it benefits our entire community. We in Beaufort County must see our downtown as the treasure it is, and show our appreciation for the unique and wonderful things it has to offer by patronizing our local merchants. We as a community all benefit when our local businesses prosper; so the next time you make plans, make a commitment to Washington and make your dollars count by spending them shopping, dining and playing right here in your own downtown.
Beth Byrd is director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance.