As Mayor Jeff Lehmann cut the ribbon at the official opening of Shimmering Smiles Dental Hygiene Clinic last Thursday, he remarked that attending official business openings is a high point. It makes sense. After all, the economic tendon of our community is the small entrepreneur who lives, works, contributes, and hires here.

And you can read locally that our unemployment rate has risen above the national average, unusual for Barrie.

The two are connected--small businesses and unemployment. The third point of the triangle is you. You have, over the next 15 days, the power to contribute to our employment rate, fuel our economy, and make Christmas meaningful in unique ways.

Rather than head out on a bus trip to 'shop til you drop' in another community, maybe put a different spin on your seasonal giving this year.

For the young self employed or employee, a really meaningful gift is a paid appointment at the dental hygienist or the dentist.  (Believe me). Or the lube shop, like Just Lubes. Or the tire store, like Champion Auto.

For the snowboarder in your life, instead of another off-shore manufactured pair of mitts, why not consider a giftcard to locally owned www.boardskins.com. Let your boarder resurface their own board with their own design.

How about a gift certificate to have a car detailed? Wonderful February activity, and such a snow & sleet & salt treat!  Or a gift of house cleaning or perhaps a service or two from a personal concierge service like Wishes Concierge or Consider It Done.

What about paying for a Chamber membership as a launch present for a new business owner?

Do kids really need more battery-operated stuff? Consider an activity, like horseback riding, or ski lessons, or swim time at local facilities?

How about a gift certificate for five lattes at a locally owned coffee shop, or maybe lunch or dinner at a locally owned restaurant? You could order specialty meals for that gluten-allergic person in your life; Jessica Valiant of Rawlicious produces packaged three meals a day, a day at a time at her locally owned vegan restaurant.

It's easy to head out to spend money in multi national stores. Easy. Quick. Tick, tick, tick... one name after another goes off your list.

But buying a canine massage from Jennifer Minister (canine_comfort@hotmail.com) for an aging pet, or a person massage from any number of excellent RMTs in the community... well, that's a gift that gives twice.

Have a friend who's just home from hospital? How about two or three driveway ploughings?

If 'things' are what you want to give, you can buy 'things' from locally owned companies... furniture from Bateman, toys from privately owned toy stores, books from the little book store tucked away. Or, you can really stretch a dollar by giving a gift card to a previously-loved books store like David's or Rivendell, or The Book Store, or Old Forrester!

Hand made sweaters, mittens, toques, scarves, slippers, socks... all available at the Farmer's Market along with lots of frozen meals, treats, meats.  Specialty clothing and hats on Lakeshore Mews. You could buy an organic vegetable seasonal basket for a family on your list, from Edencrest or Whispering Pines? Or locally produced skin care products from Moondance.

Shopping local is an attitude and a decision. Chad Ballantyne, owner of the Creative Space (co-working creative work space in downtown Barrie) puts it in this perspective. A community can chase the big businesses, those that employ 200 people, or maybe we can focus on 200 one-person businesses... who will grow!

See what I mean? We can buy. We can give. And we can support the hundreds of entrepreneurs who call Barrie home. And our unemployment line will shrink because we did.

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Really enjoyed your Examiner article this week…
Being an admitted Walmart shopper (I know they're on your naughty list), since moving to Barrie we've made a conscious attempt to go local and have shifted much of our shopping that way. Like the...

Really enjoyed your Examiner article this week…
Being an admitted Walmart shopper (I know they're on your naughty list), since moving to Barrie we've made a conscious attempt to go local and have shifted much of our shopping that way. Like the can opener we recently replaced…usually a Walmart item for us, we instead went to our local Robinson's hardware store. Not locally made, but locally owned.
Your article is well timed and a wonderful reminder to us all!

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