Small business owners across Ahwatukee Foothills are encouraging residents to shop local this holiday season to keep money and jobs in the community.

"We're definitely trying to get the word out to make people aware that we've got to support our community and the people in our own backyard, and then we can go out," said Val Yemetz, owner of Florencia Pizza Bistro. "Our backyard is burning. If we don't save it we can't save the rest of the town, or the rest of our neighborhood. We have to start from within and help people out."

Small businesses have felt the tough economy, but slowly more are beginning to pop up in Ahwatukee and they hope holiday sales will keep them alive.

New shops like Wedge and Bottle and Expressions Boutique are working together to try to drive more customers to their shops.

"We work with Wedge and Bottle to create gifts together or allow customers to buy from each business individually, and will help put a gift package together for them with products from both businesses," said Leslie Grady-Atwood, owner of Expressions Boutique. "Many small businesses owned by Ahwatukee residents have opened up in Ahwatukee, especially in our complex. It is important to support all of the local businesses so that we all succeed. The more customers spend in Ahwatukee, the more money gets redistributed in our neighborhood."

Expressions Boutique is also offering sales on Christmas items this weekend. Yollipop Self Serve Yogurt is offering discounts on gift cards and Yemetz at Florencia Pizza Bistro said it will encourage groups to choose them, and they usually offer discounts for large parties.

Anne Gill, chief executive officer and president of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, said she has seen buying local gain more traction, and it's a cause the chamber is happy to support with Shop Local Saturday.

"It has a trickle effect when people shop locally," Gill said. "When local shops are doing well they may go use local print shops, local cleaners, and it all just cycles."

Ahwatukee resident Joe Craney owns a business with his wife called ADT Building Services. He said they've become advocates for shopping local this year, too.

"I think (the movement) has definitely grown since the economy has taken a downturn," Craney said. "We have a cul-de-sac community. Within the community I think most individuals would agree that it's very important to support the local economy. I would like to encourage them to think before they buy. If you can purchase a gift certificate for a local merchant, and support our local economy, I would highly encourage that."

This year, an email has been circulating through local businesses encouraging them to shop local this holiday season.

"As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods - merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor," the email said. "This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands."

The email encourages residents to think outside the box for gifts this year, and think of ways to incorporate the local economy. Gift certificates to local eateries, lawn care, games at a local golf course, or even an oil change from a local mechanic are mentioned in the email.

In Ahwatukee it's possible to find a gift for any age at the many local boutiques or eateries owned by Arizona residents. So before you get in line at a big-box store this weekend, think local first.

"It keeps the small business cranking," said Michael Dingwell, owner of Boxseat Collectibles. "That's good for everybody."

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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