though David McKay wasn't even born when his parents Jim and Marilyn
McKay opened their first Leonardtown grocery store in 1948, growing up
in his parent's "mom and pop" store he learned that running a successful
small business is hard work - especially in today's marketplace flooded
with discount stores and national chains.
Today, many Southern Maryland residents like McKay, now chairman and CEO
of McKay's Food and Pharmacy, are strong believers in buying from and
supporting local, small businesses. Many small, locally owned businesses
are like an old friend - always there when you need them.
Businesses like Bell Motor Company, Café des Artistes, The Crossing at
Casey Jones, Cecil's Country Store, Clarke's Landing Restaurant, David's
Flowers, J.F. Harris Jewelers, Lenny's, Raley's Home Furnishings, The
Apple Basket, The Brome-Howard Inn and so many others, have been around
longer than one can remember and they become a part of the region's
Locals Bring on the Goods
People have various reasons for why they buy local, but over and over,
Southern Marylanders say they can find a wide variety of services and
products offered locally.
From food and furniture, to banking and insurance, local businesses
offer high-quality products and services that once were only found in
larger cities. Southern Marylanders can get nearly anything they need
from local businesses.
"Customers will come in and say, 'I saw something in D.C. or Annapolis'
and they're shocked we have it here," said Shannon Scott-Leach, owner of
Periwinkle Place, a home furnishings store in Lusby. "Often our price is
better," especially when compared to shipping costs associated with
buying from distant companies, she said.
But it's usually more than just a product that attracts people to
locally owned businesses - often, it's also the special customer service
"People (who own businesses) that are local, have a stake in the
community; they don't want bad things said about their business so
they're more likely to fix any problem," said Scott-Leach, who grew up
in St. Mary's County and now lives in Calvert County.
Buying Local Builds Community
Like Scott-Leach, many other local business owners not only do business
in the community, but they live there as well. The Baldus family (Carl
and Bobbie and their children Rick and Bonnie) all live in Charles
County and work in the family business.
"My parents have always believed that you give everybody fair, honest
treatment and help them as much as you can," said Grier.
"My parents are always contributing to Civista, Hospice's Festival of
Trees and now La Plata's 350th anniversary."
Grier's brother Rick Baldus, vice president of Baldus Real Estate, said
usually if a business owner lives in the community their "kids are in
school here and they are connected. They feel a commitment to give
Rick Baldus explained that many local business owners not only
contribute money to local causes, but they commit their time and
talents. He said the many contributions are "intangible - a lot of local
business people serve on boards, participate in walkathons… it usually
goes unrecognized and very few look for recognition."
Gary Simpson, co-owner of Olde Towne Insurance, an independent agency
representing Erie Insurance with offices in Leonardtown and La Plata,
said when he has helped raise money for local charities, "you go in to
local merchants and they're writing out a check, giving you gift
certificates right on the spot. When you do business locally, it tends
to get circulated back into the community faster."
A Boost for the Local Economy
Spending money within the region and using services of locally owned
businesses isn't just good for the consumer; it also aids the local
"We view the small-business community as the cornerstone of our economic
development program," said Linda Vassallo, director of Calvert County's
Department of Economic Development.
In St. Mary's County, where technology firms abound to support the
Patuxent River Naval Air Station, about 36 percent of those small
technology businesses are locally owned, according to Cynthia DellaGatta,
economic development coordinator with St. Mary's County Department of
Economic and Community Development.
While it's hard to track which businesses are locally owned, many are
small businesses, said Marcia Keeth, acting director of Charles County's
Economic Development and Tourism. According to 2007 data, Keeth said
1,914 businesses in Charles County reported having fewer than 20
employees, classifying them as small businesses.
Typically, the money spent at local businesses directly benefits the
Buying Local is in Style
Locally grown food or locally made products have become highly sought-
Southern Maryland's Agricultural Development Commission started a big
push to market locally grown food and products when they launched their
"So. Maryland, So Good" campaign a number of years ago.
Now, Christine Bergmark, the commission's executive director, said local
growers often can't meet the demand for their products.
"Demand out-strips supply," said Bergmark. "In much of Maryland we don't
have it (enough supply). There's a buy local craze - people want to open
markets and there's just not enough product. If you're in the (local
growing) market it's booming."
Local support is critical to keeping the rural nature of Southern
Maryland alive, she said. Without loyal customers, the region's cultural
charm may disappear.
FINDING WHAT'S LOCAL
Choosing to buy from locally owned small businesses makes a difference
to the region's economy and to the consumer. To find locally owned
businesses, visit the following Web sites:
(for local farms, farmers' markets, seafood, wine, horse farms, stores
and restaurants that buy local) and
www.somdtrails.com (for local farms, artists, galleries,
restaurants, shops and destinations that feature products handmade and
homegrown in Southern Maryland).
Also, call or visit your local chamber of commerce for a listing of
Calvert County Chamber of Commerce
120 Dares Beach Road, P.O. Box 9, Prince Frederick, (410) 535-2577 or
Charles County Chamber of Commerce
101 Centennial St., Suite A, La Plata, (301) 932-6500 or (301) 870-3089;
St. Mary's County Chamber of Commerce
44200 Airport Road, California, Md., (301) 737-3001;