Alexandria in Action: Local businesses and nonprofits need our support

Alexandria in Action: Local businesses and nonprofits need our support

By John Porter

Yes, they are back and not a moment too soon. “They who,” you ask? Don, Mike, Way, Pham and Lan — the barbers at the Bradlee Barber Shop. And I’m excited they’re back for a couple of reasons. First, if you take a look at my photo on this page, you understand I can’t entrust the cutting of my hair to just anyone. But more importantly, they’re a long time Alexandria business — an institution of sorts where memories were made, children’s first haircuts occurred and stories about our city were passed along.

Small businesses, like the Bradlee Barber Shop, are part of the fabric of our city — a vital and important one — which, if you believe the recent hype, are moving out of Alexandria at a bit of a scary pace.

Bucking this so-called trend, a quick look around town reveals a number of small businesses vital to Alexandria, many of which have been around for decades or longer, are not only surviving but thriving. Many of these are also family run and have a long history of giving back philanthropically to the community.

One doesn’t have to look far to find long time businesses like Presto Valet Cleaners, King’s Jewelry, Alexandria Pastry, Blue and White Carry Out, B&C Jewelry, Alexandria Shoe Repair, Brahm Opticians, R&B Heating, Stone Dentistry, and the Birchmere, just to name a few. And with the relatively recent additions of newer businesses like Holy Cow, Grape and Bean, Red Barn Mercantile, Reunions, Shoe Hive, Dairy Godmother, the Majestic, Waterfront Market and Port City Brewing Co. in the city, Alexandria certainly can lay claim to being a small business friendly town.

At the same time, it’s important for us, the consumers, to support small businesses, and not just on Small Business Saturday or at selected times of the year. A few years ago, at the beginning of the recession, then-Mayor Bill Euille started the now-legendary Buy Alexandria movement, complete with bumper stickers. The message was not specific to small businesses, but the majority of businesses in Alexandria are small by definition. It is important to support small businesses in our community — and larger ones while we’re at it — to ensure the vital mix that makes Alexandria a great place to live, work, shop and give.

While most residents think of the types of businesses described above as representative of Alexandria, there is another vital small business group in our community that also deserves your support — local nonprofits. While taking nothing away from the larger national and regional nonprofit organizations headquartered in Alexandria, supporting local nonprofits provides direct impact to those they assist and to the community as a whole. Whatever your interests, there are a number of nonprofits deserving of your support — ALIVE!, Carpenter’s Shelter, Community Lodgings, Rebuilding Together, the Center for Alexandria’s Children and the Campagna Center, along with the hundred or so others who provide daily support for those in need in Alexandria.

How can you support these deserving nonprofits and small businesses? By providing your time, energy, expertise and financial contributions, you can help make a difference. Just as I don’t suggest you support small businesses only on Small Business Saturday, I encourage the understanding that those in need are not just in need around the holidays, when it seems we have a tendency to want to give more.

While it is important to give at those times, those who are in need are generally in need throughout the year. Thus, your local nonprofits need your support year round to be able to continue their important work. In just a couple of months — Wednesday, April 20 — ACT will partner with more than 100 nonprofits serving Alexandria for Spring2ACTion, Alexandria’s online giving day. Spring2ACTion is an opportunity to join forces with other residents, local government and businesses to make a large impact on Alexandria.

I encourage your ongoing support of small businesses in our community — in both their for-profit and nonprofit iterations. As residents of this wonderful city, we feel, unlike many around us, a true and strong sense of community. And as members of this community, we must support and help one another because we care and it’s the right thing to do.

The writer is the president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.