As a local Ahwatukee Foothills business owner I feel it is in part my responsibility to educate people in the community on the benefits of shopping local.

First, I would like to provide you with some personal background information. Growing up my parents owned a small beverage store in Cleveland, Ohio, and our house was attached behind the business. Salems Beverage was conveniently nestled among the homes in the community adjacent to the elementary school. Over the course of about seven years I watched superstores and large grocery chains gobble up my parents quaint little neighborhood market. The store that was once the after-school candy, deli and beverage mart, could no longer survive the competition with its one-stop shopping and promotional deals. Consequently began my passion for supporting local businesses. I am here to tell you first hand that your loyalty to shopping local can and will make a difference.

After college, and years of working in recruiting and human resources, I discovered the world of mergers and acquisitions. Several lost jobs later, I decided to change careers. I asked myself if I'd rather risk losing another job to layoffs or face the risks of starting my own business. Flashbacks from childhood, although scary, brought me back to where my heart was and I am now the proud owner of a small business in Ahwatukee. A-Peeling Faces Skincare and Massage will be celebrating five years in business this April.

It's important to look at the big picture when deciding where you shop. Understand what the local businesses can offer you, and your community, besides deep discounts. And so I challenge the perception that people save more by shopping national chains because they promote deals. Take a look at a few statistics compiled by Local First Arizona:

• For every two jobs national retailers bring to a community, three jobs are lost as a result of local businesses closing down.

• When you shop locally-owned businesses, your money is re-circulated over and over and creates up to 75 percent more tax revenue to our community and state.

• Independent businesses raise the standard of living in your community because they take their profits and buy products and services from other local businesses, thus creating more and more tax revenues needed for the community to thrive.

• Millions of dollars of tax revenue subsidies handed to chains by financially-starved local governments drain even more tax revenue from our community and state.

• Blighted empty shopping areas are created in your community when chain stores re-locate to a more lucrative shopping center, or leave altogether. Literally hundreds of big stores are abandoned each year across the United States.

• Independent businesses are unique enterprises that contribute to the character of our community by offering a more diverse selection of goods and services.

• Independent businesses provide meaningful service with a personal touch. It matters to them that you are satisfied and will come back again.

• Carefully planned predatory pricing practices have allowed national chains to establish virtual monopolies as they drive local competition out of business. And then they raise their prices.

So what can you do personally to help keep local businesses alive? Make a decision to find and patronize a locally-owned business, wherever possible. Dine at a local, independent restaurant and treat yourself to a unique and personal dining experience. Understand that when you shop online with out-of-state companies, it doesn't contribute a dime to the local economy. Contact the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce at (480) 753-7676 or for a listing of locally-owned businesses.

You actually do have the power to strengthen and enrich your community!

• Darla Salem is owner of A-Peeling Faces Skincare & Massage Therapy in Ahwatukee Foothills, 3936 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 211. Reach her at (480) 540-7555 or

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