ITHACA, NY—Almost 50 years ago, Jan Norman moved from New York to Ithaca. While some people may say Norman isn’t from Ithacan, she said she felt like one.
Norman has been a businesswoman in Ithaca for 45 years and currently owns and operates the Ithacamade store located in the Dewitt Mall. She said that when she opened her first store in 1977, there were many small businesses in the United States, but in the years that followed, large corporate stores began to change the landscape.
“It was getting harder and harder to have a local business and be competitive,” she said. “As a business owner, I was looking for something that could be done to make local businesses competitive.”
Norman said she had heard of Local First – an organization that helps support local businesses – and with the help of a friend decided to start an Ithaca chapter. Norman said she recognized that some businesses, such as cafes and bookstores, were more at risk than others and wanted to do something to help them. She said she’s seen a city in Washington state create a coupon book for local businesses and another city create a guide for local businesses.
“I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to combine that and do something that tells the story of what makes our businesses unique and also has coupons to encourage people to come out and support some of these companies? “, She said.
This is how the ‘Guide to Being Local’ was created, with this year’s issue being the 11th annual guide. The book is not only filled with coupons for many of Ithaca’s local businesses, but it also includes information on the importance of local shopping as well as snippets on some of the local businesses.
Norman said that before the coupon book was created, Local First ran holiday campaigns which involved giving people a card that could be stamped at different local businesses and once the card was filled in, people could use it to win prizes. Additionally, Norman said she worked to help start the New York Sustainable Business Council, which works with business leaders, allied organizations and regional business networks to advance a sustainable economic future across New York. .
“The first year we did [“The Guide to Being Local”] it was a thin little book and every year it got bigger,” Norman said.
She said supporting local businesses also helps support the community in which the business is located. Norman said many of these businesses will use local accountants, marketers, graphic designers, etc., which helps keep money within the community and one local business helps another.
Norman said the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt local businesses in many ways, but many have adapted by switching to curbside pickups and online shopping options.
“Everyone has tried to be flexible and pivot their business so they can support the community and support their customers,” she said.
Local Ithaca businesses lost customers as Ithaca College and Cornell University students were off campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the pandemic, the US Small Business Administration approved loans to protect 13,000 jobs in Tompkins County in July 2020. CNBC reported that 23% of small and medium businesses have closed and in states like New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania at least 30% of those businesses closed.
Despite the pandemic’s strain on local businesses, Norman said “The Guide to Being Local” was still in production. She said the guide is usually released during the holidays, but it came out later this year than expected.
“We want to make sure everyone knows he’s out there and he’s full of the great value that people expect of him,” she said. “We hope everyone will go out and buy their guidebook and support the local community.”
“The Guide to Being Local” can be purchased at GreenStar Co-Op, Buffalo St. Books, Home Green Home, The Cat’s Pajamas, Sunny Days, the Cornell Campus Store, Fontana’s Shoes, Odyssey Books, Alphabet Soup, Rasa Spa, Ithacamade and Ithaca Bakery.