By Alisha McDarris
MARTIN COUNTY -- The local restaurants, unique clothing boutiques, quirky shops and independent companies are what keep communities surviving and thriving and local organizations are encouraging residents to support their local businesses.
The holiday season is an especially popular time to campaign for shopping local, but it's a practice that groups like area Chambers of Commerce have supported for years.
"Put your money where your heart is" is the message the Council of Chambers that comprises the Stuart/Martin County, Jensen Beach, Indiantown, Hobe Sound and Palm City Chambers is advocating for.
They're promoting the campaign with flyers in shop windows, online and at local events to get the community on board.
The mission: to get residents to spend money locally to support the local economy.
"It builds a stronger community," said Lisa Teetor from the Stuart/Martin County Chamber. "We're taking care of our own."
Ms. Teetor, for one, plans to visit local vendors like theaters, restaurants and boutiques this season to put her money where her heart is.
Ms. Teetor said that buying locally not only makes the shopping experience more meaningful because customers know who they're buying from, but they are also investing in local families, schools, jobs and the city in which they live.
"It's critical to the health of the local economy," said Ron Rose, executive director at the Jensen Beach Chamber.
Downtown Stuart is pushing the theme, too, with their "Shop Local, Shop Smart" advertisements and events like last weekend's Fall Sidewalk Shop-a-Palooza to invite residents to explore all that the city's independently owned business have to offer.
But this is more than a local crusade. American Express has people all over the country pumped for Small Business Saturday, which takes place on Nov. 30, the Saturday after Black Friday. They, too are urging people to Shop Small and Local to keep money in the communities that consumers live in and love.
Downtown Stuart, among hundreds of other cities, is promoting the day of local shopping.
This holiday season, instead of surfing the web or visiting big box stores to find the perfect gift, look no further than the myriad of independently owned shops and businesses in Martin County and feel good about supporting a vibrant local economy.