shop2by Paul Wolf, Publisher

I used to dread this time of year. Stay with me before you call me a grinch.

It’s not the food, the family, the falling leaves or the time off that bothers me (okay, maybe I’m stretching it a bit on the love of deceased foliage).

No, it’s the rush, the hustle and bustle, the commercials that proclaim “one day only” deals that will likely be repeated for just one more day.

I’ve always hated buying gifts, too, not because I’m stingy, but because I never know what to get. In a world where we receive everything on demand, a surprise special something just isn’t so special anymore.

I have no patience for long lines. I can’t deal with a store employee who doesn’t know what they sell. And I surely can’t handle all of that wrapping paper.

But Fondren has changed that for me. Now, before you accuse me of being a paid spokesperson (I guess I kind of am), I’ll explain.

When I discovered Fondren just seven and half years ago, I found something I’d only seen once before, in small town I had lived in called Kosciusko. Their historic court square was filled with little shops from clothing to antiques and gifts. I frequented those shops all year, but especially at Christmas. I knew I could walk in, shake hands with the owner and have them help me pick out the perfect gift for anyone on my list. Local meant personal. Local meant finding something that was different.

Here, in Fondren, the small town vibe has a hip twist, but the principal is still the same.

In short, it’s about relationships. Joan Hawkins at Joan Hawkins Art & Interiors says she’s more interested in cultivating loyalty than simply growing the bottom line.

It’s about standing out. Shelby Parsons, community builder at Rainbow Cooperative says Rainbow helps to create a unique mix of offerings that make our neighborhood an exciting place to live and to visit.

It’s about supporting a work ethic. Ron Chane of Studio Chane Screenprinting, Wilai and Swell-O-Phonic says shopping local means supporting those that try the hardest.

It’s about convenience. Jamie Ainsworth, owner of Mulberry Dreams says there are no long lines, no crowds — no annoyances from other customers who are just as frustrated as you may be.

Time is short and money is tight. Sure, we are all looking for the best bang for our buck. I once had a shop owner in Kosciusko say to me, “I don’t want all of your money, I just want some of it.” That’s fair, because, at the end of the day, it’s about more than a dollar.

Supporting small business means supporting a community. When you spend your dollars with a “mom and pop” business, more money is funneled back into goods, services and salaries right here.

American Express is a founding partner of this Saturday’s #ShopSmallâ„¢ push. But in Fondren, it’s about more than one day. Fondren Renaissance executive director Jim Wilkirson says, here in our neighborhood, shop small is a way of life, 365 days a year.

Locally owned businesses are working to earn your dollars and provide you with the best selection and service. They are the heartbeat of who we are and we salute them this holiday season.