Small business owners have a knack for filling voids in the community. In Fairbury, Illinois, business owner Rick Wilson revived a local furniture store after the passing of its previous owner. Fairbury Furniture has filled a void in the community and become a part of something much bigger than its small town.
“We have a very good community, a very friendly community to live in,” says Wilson. Fairbury is a town of about 4,000 people near central Illinois. Some two hours outside of Chicago, Fairbury is far from the big city bustle and relies on local businesses, like Fairbury Furniture and a beloved independent grocery store, to keep it going.
“Of course, things are changing,” says Wilson. Wary of the creeping power of Amazon and other online, out-of-town businesses, Wilson and other local leaders sought to send a message to the community: “Think before you buy.”
“A lot of people are just not aware of what happens with their money and with their sales tax dollars,” explains Wilson. “In our community, one percent of the sales tax goes right back into the schools. Then, the city gets one percent of it also. If they go onto Amazon or somewhere else outside of our city, we don’t get any benefit, our schools don’t get any benefit.”
To spread awareness of the impact of local businesses, Wilson and others created Shop Local Prairie Central. Named for the greater community, Shop Local Prairie Central encourages local residents to consider the benefits of shopping locally for goods and services.
“We at least want to make people aware, to make people think,” says Wilson. “Think before you buy.”
The message is simple, but the strategy is groundbreaking. In several ways, Shop Local Prairie Central seeks to break the mold of buy local groups. First, as Wilson explains, the group looked beyond the retail market for support.
“It’s one thing that a retailer is promoting shop local,” Wilson says. “Of course you’re going to support shop local, you’re going to benefit from it. We wanted to get some other voices. We felt that was very important.”
For that reason, Shop Local Prairie Central is led by a steering committee that includes the school superintendent, the city superintendent and the pastor of the largest church in town, to name a few. This diverse leadership reinforces how important the shop local message really is, touching all aspects of local life.
In another novel move, Shop Local Prairie Central hopes to make its message more engaging than a run-of-the-mill PowerPoint presentation or workshop. Soon, the group will present the community with a skit that pits Amazon against its very own mascot, Huey the Hawk, in a David-and-Goliath style boxing match. As Wilson puts it, “This is going to create a lot of effect.”
More than the skit, the entire Shop Local Prairie Central program stands to have a lot of effect on the Fairbury community. As Fairbury Furniture continues to fill a void in the retail market, Shop Local Prairie Central builds on local businesses’ success to encourage consumers to think before they buy.
For more information about Fairbury Furniture, visit www.fairburyfurniture.com.
This story is part of our ongoing ‘Local Memories, Lasting Impact’ series that highlights small, locally owned businesses and the differences they make in their communities.