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SALT LAKE CITY — This Valentine's Day, nonprofit Local First Utah is hoping money spent on the holiday stays in the state to support area businesses, especially as many are still struggling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Doing business with locals purchasing from locals, or using local service providers helps strengthen and stabilize our local economy," said Kristen Lavelett, executive director of Local First Utah.
That's why the group launched its "Love Your Locals" Valentine's Day gift guide, which features more than 30 businesses offering a special deal for the holiday, from book stores to florists.
"Really, what you're doing as a Utahn when you buy from an independent business, you are ensuring your own quality of life because communities with vibrant independent businesses have a higher quality of life," Lavelett said.
After closing its doors for three months in the early days of the pandemic, KingsPeak Coffee Roasters is hoping 2021 brings better luck.
"It's been obviously a roller coaster but I think people still want coffee and people still want a moment to enjoy kind of feeling normal," said co-owner Brandy Ledbetter.
Kings Peak, one of the businesses on the list, opened in 2018 and switched to online sales and deliveries of its coffee roasts for part of 2020 in response to COVID-19. They managed to stay afloat by deliveries and support from the community, Ledbetter said. They have since reopened their store with social distancing measures.
"Business has been slowly but surely coming back," Ledbetter said. The shop has participated in Local First's guides before and it always helps bring in new customers, she added.
In addition to Local First's guide, the Salt Lake Downtown Alliance launched a similar guide in an effort to highlight the hundreds of businesses, including national retailers, in the downtown area.
"Downtown there are many options," said Dee Brewer, executive director of the organization. "It does make a difference when you shop locally, even if you're talking about Louis Vuitton or Tiffany and Company. When you buy there, you are employing the people who work in that store, you are employing the people who work at City Creek Center, you are investing in having that asset of a shopping destination in our local community."
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a renewed focus to shopping local as residents tried to support the places they loved to help them stay afloat in difficult times. Lavelett and Brewer hope that momentum stays even after the pandemic subsides.
"If they've already done the legwork to buy locally during a pandemic, I think you're probably going to be a pretty loyal customer after the pandemic," Lavelett said.
Seeing an increase in sales and customer support was definitely true for King's English Bookshop, which has been closed since the spring of 2020.
"We had to pivot pretty quickly," co-founder Anne Holman said. The store shifted its focus to online sales and offers curbside pickup instead of allowing customers indoors since the space is small and difficult to accommodate social distancing.
Even though the store has been closed for nearly an entire year, the shop's sales haven't suffered and customers have adapted quickly to the new online focus.
"People have been really supportive and really patient," Holman said. The bookstore has participated in nearly every guide the nonprofit puts on, something that always helps bring in more business, she added.
"It definitely brings in more customers and for us," she said. "Community is what's important — it's great for business, it's great for everybody."
Supporting local business helps keep money in Utah's economy and has a ripple effect of positive outcomes, Lavelett explained.
For every dollar spent at a local independent business, 55% stays in the state and recirculates throughout the economy. It also goes toward supporting jobs in the area and local businesses are more likely to give back to their community through charity events, Lavelett added.
"Your hard earned money becomes their hard earned money," she said.
This is the group's second installment of the Valentine's Day guide and they hope to continue growing the number of businesses participating each year.