‘Not a barren wasteland:’ Importance of shopping local in Williamsport

WILLIAMSPORT – The city’s Shop Small Passport Program highlights the need for putting resources into the community you live in. 

For local brick and mortar stores, foot traffic is key to competing with mega chain stores and the internet. The Williamsport Business Association’s fifth annual passport program is aimed at making local shopping fun and building collaboration between businesses throughout the city – and this year it’s 58 businesses. 

“I really believe that we’re better when we do this together,” said Karl Fisher owner of Alabaster Coffee Roaster and Tea Co. “We will thrive and grow when the folks around us thrive and grow.” 

Williamsport’s local businesses have been booming over the past five or 10 years. Businesses like Moon and Raven, Patinaz and the Brickyard came to the area within the past decade, but others like The Hatchet House, Bathvs and Boom City Brewery showed up within the past few years. 

“There is so much, we’re not a barren wasteland of things to do,” Fisher said. 

Putting money back into the community is what builds the local economy, said Shana Eichenberg, owner of Bathvs on West Fourth Street. 

“I’m likely to spend it on another local business,” Eichenberg said, adding that the passport program provides incentives to get people out and make shopping interesting. 

For small niche stores like Freshlife, building a local customer base is essential to paying the bills and keeping employees, said Erin Roush, the business’s owner and owner of the Moon and Raven Public House. 

Freshlife takes the majority of its orders from walk-in traffic to the store, Roush said. About three years ago the store downsized to a smaller location on East Third Street, but Roush added that as the Lycoming Mall stores have continued to close over the years businesses in downtown and the surrounding area have begun to grow. 

“While it’s a scary time, it’s also an exciting time,” Roush said “I’m happy to be a part of the small business community in this area.” 

Collaboration between businesses is key to continuing downtown growth, especially around the holidays, said Chelsea Rawson, vice president of the Williamsport Business Association. It was five years ago when the business association decided to start a program that would bring businesses together in the city. 

“Now everybody is in it together, everybody is promoting each other.” Rawson said. “People want to gather all of their stamps so they get really excited. 

The passport program kicked off on Nov. 30, which was Small Business Saturday and ends on Dec. 14. Prizes will be announced on Dec. 21. 

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