With only two days left until Christmas, how many of you are still out looking for that one final gift? Well, there’s lots of ways to find that last present – big superstores, malls, or online – but what about shopping locally? The West Virginia Small Business Administration says, small, local businesses employ nearly half of all West Virginia workers.
During the holiday season, DeFluri’s Fine Chocolates in Martinsburg often sees a consistent line of people looking eagerly through their large, glass candy case at the back of the store.
“The milk chocolate pretzels are my favorite,” said Shepherdstown resident, and DeFluri's regular Tammy Kershner, “But my dad likes the chocolate covered cherries, and so instead of buying him the cheap, nasty box for three bucks at the grocery store, I come here and get him these.”
Quality is what DeFluri’s co-owner Brenda Casabona says helps her small business compete with the mass market like Hershey's or Nestle.
“People that want a better product," she explained, "and they realize that a better product entails a higher cost in general, on a food product because of the quality of your ingredients, so, that would be our target market, people that really do want a quality product.”
Brenda and Charlie Casabona opened DeFluri’s Fine Chocolates in downtown Martinsburg in 1998. Charlie says part of the attraction of shopping locally at a small business is the customer service and the ability to personalize products - especially at Christmas.
“As we get closer to Christmas,"Charlie said, "people come in and they pick every box, and the full service candy case is what they come in for.”
Through a door in the back of the showroom is DeFluri’s own chocolate factory. It’s one, massive 12,000 square-foot room with machines that swirl the chocolate, conveyer belts that cover the various candies with chocolate, and even an antique foil-wrapping machine.
“We make creams the old fashioned way that are cooked, so they’re very soft and flowy; jellies, nut clusters, authentic butter crunch," Charlie noted, "There are 17 flavors of truffles in the case.”
Charlie and Brenda say making and selling chocolate takes a lot of work, but it’s always worth it in the end when they see how much people love their product.
But shopping local at a small business, like DeFluri’s, has more impact than just choice and quality. Small businesses actually make up a large portion of employers in West Virginia. In fact, the West Virginia Small Business Administration, or SBA, says there are over 100,000 small businesses in the Mountain State, making up 95.6 percent of the state’s employers and 50.5 percent of West Virginia’s workforce.
Randy Lewis is the Executive Director of Main Street Martinsburg, which is part of a statewide initiative called Main Street West Virginia that tries to encourage people to shop more locally and revitalize communities.
He says shopping local, especially during the holidays, really makes a difference.
"It makes our community a sense of pride giving back, because you are supporting local jobs as well as showing support for them, so we need to keep that local economy local,” he explained."
Lewis says small businesses help make West Virginia towns a destination - and being a destination often means bolstering the local economy.