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Shop Small Sundays helping local businesses stay afloat

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LA CROSSE, Wis. - (WXOW) - The pandemic hasn't been easy for the community and small businesses have faced the brunt of it as they now depend on holiday sales to keep the doors open.

Downtown Mainstreet Inc. and the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce teamed up to encourage people to shop small by creating 'Shop Small Sundays.'

Here is how the program works:

  • Make a purchase on a Sunday now through the end of the year at a locally owned business in La Crosse County.
  • Upload a photo of your receipt to the website
  • Each week's corporate sponsor will match a percentage of your purchase and donate that to the Small Business Resiliency Fund managed by Couleecap.

For example, if you buy $50 worth of goods, the sponsor kicks in $25 dollars to the fund.

Larson's General was founded in 2013 by Mary and Joshua Larson. Just a little under four months ago, they moved just five doors down for a more central downtown location.

At Larson's General they refill personal care and cleaning supplies.

"We purchase those products in bulk and offer refilling in order to reduce plastic waste associated with those everyday products," said Joshua Larson, co-owner of Larson's General. "You can bring your shampoo container, your laundry soap, pretty much anything in between."

Customers can then refill those as opposed to tossing out their old and going to buy a new one which then reduces the cost of that product. They offer community accessible, earth-friendly alternatives to everyday essentials, as well as over 250 bulk natural soaps, cleaners, and ingredients for refiling by the ounce.

For Larson's General it's more than just business.

"The thing that got us into business was the impact we could have in our community by reducing the waste associated with products that people use everyday. Last time we ran the numbers we had refilled close to 200,000 containers which (conservatively estimated) that would be over one ton of plastic waste that was given a second life or kept out of the landfill completely," said Larson.

Since the pandemic began, doing business has not been easy.

"It has been difficult for all sorts of reasons. There are issues with the supply chain, even products that are made in the U.S. or locally have trouble getting containers or ingredients needed to make those products," said Larson. "There is a pandemic, so we don't want a lot of people in the store at any time but there are fewer people out in general."

Although Larson says it is always important to shop local, this holiday season it's crucial.

"The spring and summer were really slow for us with the different restrictions on business and people not going out in general. That spring to summer season is usually one of our busier times of the year so that can help weather through the winter when things kind of slow down in Wisconsin," said Larson.

Another local business that has been in La Crosse since the late 90s is Deaf Ear Records. Although they were forced to close for a few months, Sarah Cox, an employee at Deaf Ear Records says business has come back steady.

Deaf Ear sells everything from VHS tapes to vinyl records.

"It's community, it's all of us," said Cox. "I think music is something especially, and other pop culture and such is something that gets people together and there is something to talk about, something to do and I think that music is universal. If you shop local then you're just spreading it in the community and supporting music and musicians."

Without community support, unique businesses like these wouldn't be able to stay open which is why the pandemic has been tough on local small businesses. Customers haven't been able to get out and shop the way they did before so programs like Shop Small Sunday are trying to encourage them to do so in a safe way.

"It gets people downtown," said Sarah Cox. "Most of the businesses that are down here are locally run businesses. They aren't chains and that's important to any town, any community."

"Any kind of organized event like that, you get businesses working together just agreeing to certain hours can really drive interest," said Joshua Larson.

Shop Small Sundays run each Sunday from November 15 to December 27.

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Rylie Kyhn

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