Small businesses offer more than just products
Local retailers can also be more accommodating in a pinch

By ALEX BELD - Daily News Staff

Nov. 22, 2017

A person carries a reusable ‘Small Business Saturday’ bag along Main Street on
Nov. 29, 2014, in West Bend.
Daily News

It’s often said that small businesses are the backbone of the country’s economy, something which may become more evident when looking at the impact they have on smaller communities like those in Washington County.

Many businesses in the area give products, gift cards and their time to local events and charity groups. Sometimes they even host events to bring awareness to a cause.

Co-owner of Laughing Mountain Popcorn Nancy Laufenberg said, “We don’t generally just write a check.” She added she and her husband often give gift baskets to enhance experiences at events. The events they work with range from golf outings hosted by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Washington County to library story time at the West Bend Community Memorial Library. They used to donate to events as far away as the south side of Milwaukee, but have decided to become more locally focused and keep their efforts inside of West Bend.

“They’re little things, but they’re family things,” Laufenberg said about their gift baskets. “We hope that it makes them (kids) feel loved and that they’re appreciated.”

Other small businesses in the area focus on various areas, Mountain Outfitters, for example, donates bikes to the West Bend Police Department, hosts a Ride of Silence for cyclists killed while riding, helps to keep the Eisenbahn State Trail clean and works on the Tour of America’s Dairyland race when it comes through the city.

Mountain Outfitters owner Kevin Schultz said they do it “just to kind of help out and create a better community that we live in.” He added, “Sometimes it’s us initiating it and sometimes it’s someone coming to us.”

When it comes to offering services or help Executive Director of the Washington County Volunteer Center Sue Millin said, “The size of the business is irrelevant.”

As an organization that often depends on donations, anything can help to enhance an experience.

“We just don’t have the resources to provide all this extra stuff,” Millin said.

“This is what makes our community strong,” she added.

Small businesses are also able provide something both unusual and unique to the consumers in the community in which they operate.

Laufenberg said she was recently told by a customer that the shop is a jewel of West Bend, something which meant a lot to her. She added her business is a place where “special requests can be accommodated.”

The small business will take odd orders, large orders and often times last-second orders as it, like other small businesses, isn’t constrained by corporate rules.

“We will really work hard,” Laufenberg said. She added she and her husband will often work late or early to get the job done and what they do is handmade in the store and hand-bagged as well.

Supporting these businesses on Small Business Saturday can help keep them open.

Laufenberg said days like Small Business Saturday can “re-awaken how important these little businesses are to a community.”