O’Mara’s waitress Donna Perry shows off some food at the Berkley restaurant Nov. 14.

O’Mara’s waitress Donna Perry shows off some food at the Berkley restaurant Nov. 14.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Small businesses in Berkley, Ferndale boost local vitality

By: Mike Koury, Sarah Wojcik | Woodward Talk | Published November 15, 2018

 Supporting small businesses helps contribute to the vitality of cities.

Supporting small businesses helps contribute to the vitality of cities.

Photo by Donna Agusti


BERKLEY/FERNDALE — Local businesses comprise the heart of many towns and communities.

They are vital for job creation, boosting local economies and preserving neighborhoods.

Lew Sawyer, manager at O’Mara’s Restaurant in Berkley, said a big benefit of shopping locally is how the businesses pay taxes in the cities.

“A huge percentage of our business is local business, and we try to make ourselves what local people want,” he said. “We serve the needs and we pay a lot of taxes here. We help defray the cost of government.”

Phil Mendiola, principal with Hodges Subaru in Ferndale, also spoke to the economic benefits of shopping locally, as the taxes they pay to the city go back to the community.

“The government uses that money to help the vendors of the community. Not all of it. Some of that money goes to the state, but that still comes back to the community as far as road improvements, streetlights and all of those things. … Those are the things that our taxes pay for. That’s the whole plan behind shopping locally, is that some of your monies (goes) back to the neighborhood,” he said.

Aside from the economic reasons, shopping locally is just more convenient, according to Mendiola.

“You come and purchase something here, or you come and get service around here. While you’re waiting, you’re probably within walking distance or a few minutes drive, you can go to a restaurant, which is locally supported, and stuff like that,” he said. “The money kind of hangs around the neighborhood.

“Patronizing the local community vendors (is) always nicer because it’s convenient.”

Sawyer said people are always going to go to the shopping centers or buy products online, but there are roles for smaller businesses.

“That’s what I see. If you have what people want and you’re close to them, then that works, but if people aren’t being served by the neighborhood business, then it won’t work,” he said.

“Berkley’s a nice little town. There are a lot of little businesses and different entrepreneurs that have an idea of what they think would work in a little bedroom town like this and try to cater to that need,” Sawyer said.

Royal Oak Downtown Manager Sean Kammer said the vast majority of retailers in downtown Royal Oak are small businesses.

“Royal Oak has always had a plentiful array of mom and pop retails,” he said. “Supporting them is especially important because it contributes to the vitality of the downtown. We have such a unique offering compared to so many other places, and compared to strip malls.”

Kammer said spending money at small businesses in Royal Oak that are operated by innovative entrepreneurs “means so much more” than shopping at national chains because it makes “so much more of a community impact.”

“The downtown is a very walkable place,” he said. “You can really spend a day down here. The store density allows you to discover new stores and explore what they have to offer. I think it’s so much more of a fulfilling experience.”

The Royal Oak City Commission recently passed a resolution proclaiming Saturday, Nov. 24, to be “Small Business Saturday.”

On Nov. 24, parking will be free at all structures in the city, and the city will also host a special event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to commemorate the day and celebrate the opening of a new alley, recently titled Royal Oak Way, behind the 200 block of South Main Street, between 11 Mile Road and Third Street.

The event in the new alley will include light music, displays from downtown businesses, a meet-and-greet with Santa Claus, and free food samples and beverages.

Kammer added that on Nov. 24, shoppers who spend $25 at participating Royal Oak retailers will receive a Royal Oak holiday tote bag and a Royal Oak ornament while supplies last.

Both Ferndale and Berkley also will be participating in their own Small Business Saturday events.

Ferndale will have a welcome station from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rust Belt Market, 22801 Woodward Ave., where people can pick up a canvas shopping bag while supplies last. Attendees also will get a list of participating business that will be having special sales that day, Ferndale DDA Deputy Director Cindy Willcock said.

Along with free parking and a free shuttle, people can pick up a scavenger hunt list and, by visiting specific businesses, be eligible to win prizes, Willcock said.

People shopping in Berkley will have free parking available to them, and their businesses are participating in Oakland County’s Shop, Text, Win program, in which people who shop at small businesses and send in a receipt on Nov. 24 have a chance to win $5,000 and other prizes. For more information and to enter, visit forms.oakgov.com/58.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses are responsible for 63 percent of net new jobs created over the past 20 years.