The holidays will certainly look different this year. In normal times, some 50 million Americans typically travel at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving dinner, according to AAA. That number soars to about 115 million during the December holidays. For most of us, large family gatherings for the holidays will be replaced by celebrations of a smaller nature, involving loved ones we currently spend time with because we occupy the same home.

There’s plenty of research and speculation on holiday shopping trends for 2020, but recent spikes of the virus make it difficult for anyone to predict. I don’t have stats but it’s no secret that consumers are shopping online in greater numbers.

Shopping online was offered by many of our local businesses long before March, while others quickly pivoted to get online stores up and running — and that’s a really good thing. E-commerce is growing for many reasons, not least of which is the current pandemic, and with more small businesses offering online shopping, consumers can easily support them.

And that’s what we must do.

Helping small business is good for everyone always … and the benefits of shopping small extend far beyond times of crisis. Supporting a small business helps secure the future of other local small businesses. A local insurance broker, for instance, hires a local design firm. Independent businesses return more money to the community. A local small business owner donates to the Forest Park Food Pantry or sponsors a Little League team. Small business owners give back to the community in countless ways.

From retail shops, restaurants and professional services, small businesses lend character and individuality to our town. Their products are unique, customer service is exceptional, and we’re largely on a first-name basis with many of the owners.

At this very moment, many of us are thinking about what we’re going to do for dinner. Grab the phone and call a local restaurant directly — even if you have to pick up your order. Making your holiday shopping list? Think local first. Don’t care to shop online or not comfortable shopping in person? Just call. They’ll help you get what you’re looking for. That’s the beauty of buying from a small business.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to do business with someone I know. A person I can actually speak with. A family that is passionate about their business. There’s nothing more frustrating than automated “service” when you need something from a business you’re patronizing.

We have choices … and good ones! We can support small businesses even while we’re socially distanced.

As often as you can, make the choice to shop local and support our small businesses. The rewards are substantial.