Carl Cassidy glanced outside while in Lola's Gifts and Flowers recently and realized he was attracting a crowd.

"I looked out the window and there were about six people lined up," said Cassidy, who owns the Sheffield business.

His business has a reputation for creating an elaborate Christmas storefront every year, and this year certainly is no exception, complete with giant nutcrackers at the entrance.

"A lot of people do photography outside," Cassidy said.

That's part of the charm of a locally owned business.

"We can't compete with opening up at midnight," Cassidy said. "But customers know this is a simpler shopping environment than standing in line at box stores, just to have businesses that are small town and say, 'Make yourself at home.'"

There were a lot of Shoals residents who followed that recommendation during Small Business Saturday.

In downtown Florence, Karen's Corner has become a Court Street staple, with the owner, who is affectionately known as Miss Karen, running it for 14 years.

"The money stays in town and is spent in town," she said. "The city benefits, and the store owner does, too."

She added that small business owners get to know their customers, and that personal relationship is important to people. "I know a lot of the customers. When I go to market, I know what they want."

On the other side of Court Street, Cynthia Finch was thumbing through selections at Barnes Health Care Pharmacy.

"I love this little store," she said. "It has great buys."

According to the Small Business Administration, 68% of the money spent at a small business remains in the local economy.

April Vafeas and her daughter, Reagan, made purchases Saturday at The Shoppes at Coldwater, in downtown Tuscumbia.

"We live four blocks away," Vafeas said. "It's close. We like to support these great businesses in the area and I love our tax dollars staying here and supporting our schools."

Inside the store, Ashley Morrow was being interviewed by a group that posted videos on social media throughout the day promoting locally owned businesses in the Shoals.

The group included several businesses, the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, Shoals Business Incubator and Alabama Small Business Development Center.

Morrow said small businesses give back to the community in many ways.

"I'm paying taxes here and living here and shopping here," she said. "It's the small businesses that sponsor your kid's Little League team." or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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