Aiken Brewing Co. bartender Adam Fulgham poured a tall glass of the restaurant's famous beer while explaining why he prefers small businesses over larger corporations.
“It's just the way to go,” Fulgham said while wiping excess trickles of beer from the sides of the glass before serving it to a customer. “Small businesses are always unique, and I always put my money into one versus a larger business.”
Today marks the last day of National Small Business Week – a week that honors the entrepreneurship of small businesses. Several businesses spoke about how they stay competitive against larger businesses.
Cindy Rudisill, owner of Cyndi's Sweet Shoppe, said her shop is able to stay competitive because it can offer a variety of items that differ from sweets at Wal-Mart or Walgreens.
“We have to make this a destination choice, and we do it by the look of our store,” she added. “We also tend to stay away from items that a larger store might carry and offer more unusual items that you might not be able to find there.”
Folly – a store that specializes in home and self accessories – is one of the many shops located in the downtown area. Owner Jane Hottensen said she finds ways to offer unique choices that can't be found at larger stores.
“I buy at the New York markets rather than Atlanta, so hopefully that gives me a little bit of a different merchandise selection,” she said. “I also think the boutique shopping experience is totally different than going to a mall, and people enjoy that aspect.”
Amanda Thornton, owner of Threads, said people shop in her store because of the personal shopper experience the clothing store provides.
“If people are going to a wedding or birthday party, we listen to that and help them pick out something that's personal for them,” she said.
Several of the local businesses mentioned the support they receive from organizations such as the Aiken Downtown Development Association and the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.
Aiken Downtown Development Association Director Avery Spears-Mahoney said patronizing local businesses essentially gives money back to the local community.
She added that small businesses have a competitive edge in the fact that they offer personalized service to meet the customer's needs more appropriately.
“Our downtown merchants and restaurants offer a unique shopping and dining experience,” she said. “What better way to support your community than shopping with local merchants, restaurants and service providers?”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.