Saturday, November 24, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Today, support small business

Welcome to Small Business Saturday — a day where we focus on and salute the backbone of our community’s economy.

Sure everyone can see those big box retailers from the highway, and we are glad they are here, but without the small businesses there would be no big box retailers, no Jacksonville, no Cabot, no Sherwood, no Lonoke, no central Arkansas to delight and enthrall residents and visitors.

This is a day that the local chambers of commerce should be jumping on and expounding the history, contributions and importance of small businesses, which make up 90 percent or more of their memberships, but since they choose not to, let’s do some reminiscing.

With a quick look down Jacksonville’s Main Street one sees Chambers Drug, First Arkansas Bank and Trust, Double R Florist, Unique Furniture, Bart Gray Realty, and by turning left, Whit Davis Lumber.

Chambers is one of those old-fashioned drug stores with something for everyone. Sure the prices don’t always drop to those of the big boxes, but service is par excellence and then there’s that wonderful soda fountain.

Most old timers have had a chance to sit at a soda fountain and enjoy a malted shake, hamburger and fries, but it’s something that should be a bucket list item for young and old alike.

Most folks may not think of First Arkansas Bank and Trust as a small business, but it started right here on Nov. 5, 1949, at 109 W. Main St. in Jacksonville with three employees. Named Jacksonville State Bank, it was the first bank to open for business in Jacksonville and has expanded regionally to about 30 branches. Bank founder Pat Wilson was one of a small group of men who had the foresight back in the early 1950s to convince the military to built an Air Force base in the Jacksonville area.

Little Rock Air Force Base, which could be considered a local small business itself, pumps more than $700 million into the local economy. So if not for First Arkansas Bank there may not have been an Air Force base and Jacksonville could have become just a miniscule dot on the map.

Then there’s Whit Davis Lumber Plus, a business that continues to do solid business despite big box competition from all directions. What’s its secret? Competitive prices, sure, but its personal service just can’t be matched. It has three stores: Jacksonville, Cabot and Greenbrier.

But it started in 1953 when Whit Davis and his wife, Miriam, invested almost all they had, $25,000, to purchase the assets of a small business called Oliver Lumber Company. They changed the name to Whit Davis Lumber Company, Miriam kept the books, and the only other adult employee was the yard man/truck driver. Current man-in-charge, John A. Davis-III, was in the sixth grade and had 15 minutes to get to work there after school in those days.

An early company motto was, “We either have it in stock or we will get it for you tomorrow.” And another, “We Satisfy.” Those mottos are still the cornerstone of their service.

And let’s not forget area stalwart, Knight’s Super Foods. As big box grocers either come and go or ignore the potential of the area, the Knight’s family has focused on the three “G’s” — good prices, great products and greater customer service.

Knight’s has been in business for 40 years and has stores in Cabot, Beebe and Jacksonville. Their website says it best: “Thank you to our loyal customers, without you we would not be in business today.”

To Knight’s and all the small businesses in the area, too numerous to mention them all here, we’d like to turn that around and say, “Thank you to our loyal small businesses, without you we wouldn’t be here today.”