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It just boils down to choice. So choose local.
It just boils down to choice. So choose local. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

How we can save struggling Milwaukee businesses

Last week, I heard of an iconic Milwaukee business that might close. I'm not trying to sound cryptic, nor am I withholding information just for some silly power trip. I was told about this off the record by the owner and I am legally and ethically obliged to keep this quiet.

But the fact is, a business many of us love is in trouble because not enough of us, including myself, are spending money there.

This reminds me of a conversation we have in the editorial offices at OnMilwaukee.com. So often, a business closes and we are all bummed and / or surprised and yet, we can't remember the last time we shopped there.

I know the suggestion to "buy local" is unfortunately such an overused term many people barely comprehend it anymore. It's muted into Charlie Brown's teacher warble, along with other important-but-tired expressions like "eco-friendly."

But I feel like we have the chance, right here and now, to assess the local businesses that are important to us and really make a commitment to spend our money there instead of other places. At the very least, if these places still have to close, we will know we truly did our part to keep them afloat.

I'm making a list right now of the establishments I cannot bare to lose in Milwaukee. It doesn't matter if they are old school and iconic or just opened last month – they are the places that I believe give Milwaukee sass and character. Sure, I'll still find myself wandering the aisles of the big boxes, but I'm not gonna lose sight of these special, signature places.

I wanna keep Milwaukee weird.

Talkbacks

Idle1 | Nov. 8, 2012 at 1:31 a.m. (report)

Nobody spends money at businesses they don't know exist. Diamond Dean is absolutely right! You got to advertise, like the tax preparation company that uses costumed Statues of Liberty to wave signs at motorists. Cheap, humorous and effective.

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mikeb | Nov. 7, 2012 at 7:04 p.m. (report)

At the end of the day you have to be a good business to make it. Alterra does well because those guys are extremely smart business people and marketers. They've also hustled to make the right connections to get things done.

I like to think my accounting firm has grown from me to 12 people because we do a better job then the Big Accounting firms and the H&R Blocks. I don't expect anyone to support us simply because we are local.

As a local business, we don't have the resources to go toe to toe with some of the big places (and we've even see Local First people use H&R Block after talking to us), but the key is to find a niche and do a great job for your customers. If you can do that, you'll survive and possibly even thrive.

Then again, it would help that if a Company like Palermo's comes under fire that other businesses would speak out and support the rather then taking wishy washy stands like the Outpost did. Put it this way, you don't see Pick and Save trying to educate their customers on the Pros and Cons of buying a locally produced pizza

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AndrewJ | Nov. 6, 2012 at 12:26 p.m. (report)

36464 Elect new local and national leadership.

Next question.

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Wildstylez | Nov. 5, 2012 at 9:45 p.m. (report)

36564 Great Post! And great idea to make an effort to support small business. But sleep well tonight knowing the failure of local small merchants is not all your fault, or the fault of local consumers. I'm a marketing consultant for small businesses. I'll skip the details as this is not a commercial. However, It is a wake up call to merchants. These closures are consistent with small business because of a dumbfounding neglect to a marketing plan. Then, in a panic, businesses resort to coupons and discounts - killing their profits for a few more customers, far too late in the game. For every 100 small business owners I meet, 85% have no marketing plan at all and 2% of those are even willing to discuss the possibility of incorporating one. "I can't afford it" is the undisputed #1 reason I hear business owners balk at a marketing plan, even before they know what it costs. Which can be, in most cases, less than $2500 a year. Small business owners take note: We all want to experience your local product or service - you just have to invite us in and stay in touch with us to invite us back. If you can't afford to market your business - you're going to go out of business. The Big Box stores and our beloved local merchants all have something special to offer. The only difference? The Big Box stores are marketing (and stealing) your customers, while you are letting it happen. It's not the economy - it's your marketing. As the saying goes; "if I can help just one business succeed with this comment - then it's week worth the time it took to write it."

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mrjspoons | Nov. 5, 2012 at 8:50 p.m. (report)

34729 Beans and Barley. Alterra. The Oriental. Kopp's. For starters!

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