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Lita Smith-Mines

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Keeping Local Business Afloat

Posted: 02/15/2012 12:32 pm

"I came here to spend money!" exclaimed a visitor to our table at the recent Long Island Boat Show. Within moments of meeting her, I wanted to hug her.

She told me that she received her first raise in three years (a "good, good one") and though she had to triage her bills and perform CPR on her retirement savings, she was nevertheless embarking on a one-woman operation to help our local economy.

"I'm going to spend about $50 here, then $25 at the local drugstore and $25-30 at the diner," she shared. "I want everybody to stay in business!"

She asked me how the boat show was going, and I told her that the crowds were steady. I was hearing more consumer confidence than I had in a while, and talked to a handful of people who came to the show to buy boats. No one was talking about acquiring a yacht; the conversations centered on boats in the 19-25 foot range. The notion of the family "staycation" was evolving, it seemed, from sitting in the living room watching The Poseidon Adventure and Pirates of the Caribbean. Now semi-flush parents looking to relieve their families' cabin fever were at the boat show, confiding how they'd calculated that the yearly cost of boating was roughly equivalent to a week's stay in a theme park or some other group trek.

In addition, plenty of attendees stopping by our booth declared that they planned to use boats they already owned after a few years of being in drydock (literally or figuratively). One man was happy his boat never sold while he was underemployed (actually, he said, "working one temporary crap job after another"), as his recently landed position enabled him to afford gas for "a couple of weekends each month." Another boater envisioned that this summer would find him taking his skiff on day trips around Long Island with friends and family, rather than just "sitting at the dock and shooting the breeze all day."

Though many people told me that they were at the show looking for ways to spruce up and accessorize their boats, the woman I was now chatting with was the only one who'd said anything about hatching a spending scheme to buoy local business.

"It's no big deal and it's not hard," she said. "I heard about 'cash mobs' that spend $20 here and $20 there to keep local stores going. I knew that I could do that, too. I don't want only Walmarts on Long Island! "

Before she floated away on her spending cruise, I asked this bubbly woman how long she intended to keep up her merchant rescue mission.

"I'll spend just enough to not miss the money when I'm 89," she declared. If another boater hadn't come along just then to ask a question, I believe I would have acted on my impulse and hugged her!

 

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