Returning to the spirit of the season

This holiday season is very different. Whether it’s the economy, green movement or the customer’s desire for something new, our Southwest Minneapolis businesses are seeing a shift from the holiday consumerism of the past to gift giving that is heartfelt and comes with more emotion. It’s local. It’s value driven. It’s authentic.

Customers are looking for something special. They want a gift that is unique and carries with it a special touch — vintage wrap, something handcrafted with love, sweet treats made with quality ingredients, or an item that comes with a story they can share with others. It has a connection with one’s community. It’s the intangibles that add value and make spending one’s hard earned money feel a bit better and go a bit further.    

The holiday shopper also wants a gift that reflects their values as well as those of the recipient. They want to shop with a business that respects the environment, is committed to the community and pulls together in tough times. They want their business to be appreciated and they expect great service. They want to see the money they spend go right back into the community in which they live.

Big box retail can certainly give the consumer “low, low prices” with economies of scale, bright lights, wide aisles and shopping almost 24/7. What they can’t provide, however, is everything a small business owner can. Bells attached to the door that jingle signaling your arrival; an offer of cider and gingersnaps; a hand-selected assortment; staff with an expertise and passion for what they do and sell; superb personalized service.

As the president of the Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association, I am committed to the belief that vibrant neighborhood businesses are as integral to our community as our world-class park system. Our holiday marketing campaign, “Expect the Unexpected, Shop Southwest” is the first step in a larger initiative to create a destination identity based on how people define their sense of place.

No one knows more about Southwest Minneapolis and how it functions than the people who live and work here. You ask six different people, you get six different answers. Through NEHBA, we’ve been using a people-centered approach, working with businesses and residents to help us understand what makes Southwest Minneapolis unique, meaningful and connected, what it means to “Experience Southwest.”  

Throughout this process, we’ll learn how you define your relationship to the parks, public spaces, and business, uncover common values, and identify ways to build strong communities. Creating a sense of place promotes peoples’ health, happiness and economic wellbeing. Destinations where friends and neighbors run into one another create the “front porches” of our community.

As a resident for 20 years, I know Southwest Minneapolis enjoys a wonderful quality of life, has a strong sense of community and reflects a positive spirit. I also believe we have a stake in our community and are committed to make things better.  

I encourage you to follow this column over the next several months as we “Experience Southwest.” We’ll highlight various businesses, products, services and events that are unique to the area, as well as success stories on how we work together to create a friendly, more livable community. And always, we’ll have a bit of fun.