Small Businesses
The Protectors of America's Stories
January, 2013 - Issue #99
They're what your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles have shared with you since the day you were born. You know how your culture works - and doesn't - because of them. Stories - real, embellished or entirely imagined - told you how to be and not to be; what to value and what to avoid. Stories told you who you are.

In the magazine business, we suffer from no shortage of stories. What makes us different, though, is that - as a small business that stays in business by helping other small businesses grow their business - we are given the near-daily honor of hearing our community's stories.

While the characters vary, the themes do not. Passion, dedication, risk, struggle and hope are all common elements to the stories told by your small-business-running neighbors. We listen as a chef, husband and father shares his story. A love of sharing good, nourishing food with people; a deep desire to do it his way, the right way; a wife who works as a school teacher during the day, then brings their children to the family restaurant to lend a helping hand after.

The chef's story has no end, but only beginnings - and that is what makes small businesses different than any other type of business. Because this chef is told stories, too. Stories about how the small business that provides him with fresh salad greens turned their family's backyard into a certified farm. Stories about how a vegetable grower uses heirloom seeds, because that's how his family, for generations, has cultivated foods that are rich and ripe and real.

Along with the vegetables, the stories become the chef's, too. And, just like the produce that was hand sown and hand grown, they are rich and ripe and real.

A student of mine recently said this in class: "I feel like our nation is entering a phase where we are craving the authenticity of the past. I know I am."

I pointed out, I think rightly, that "authenticity" is not yet extinct. However, you now, in the era of big box stores and giant online retailers, usually have to make a choice to seek it out. We don't need to romanticize the shopkeepers of the past; we need to actively support the small-business owners of the present, who, in turn, support other small businesses, who then, in turn, support other small businesses... and tell their stories.

Perhaps you don't own a small business - or particularly care to hear about how the food you eat was grown, or how the sweater you wear was fashioned, or how the furniture you perch on was crafted. Still, I wonder: How does your own story change when where you shop changes? Will you pull your grandchild onto your lap and tell them of the days of yore, when you once purchased two made-in-a-country-you-can't-find-on-a-map tee shirts for the low, low price of $9.99? Or will you tell them, like I will, of how, when their momma was a little girl, she loved to go to Green Thumb and pick out "her" annual Christmas ornament for the tree?

As anyone who has devoured a new Lady Di's cupcake flavor could tell you, you cannot crave what you do not know. But once you get a taste...

This gifting season and beyond, I hope you choose to at least nibble on "the authentic." It's alive and well, along with the thousands of stories it writes, shares and protects, here in Santa Clarita.

Stories - real, embellished or entirely imagined - tell you how to be and not to be; what to value and what to avoid. Stories tell you who you are. The small-business stories in this town tell us to be generous with those who have less than us; they tell us to value community; they encourage us to innovate; they prompt us to try again. They tell us that we are a place of kindness, creativity and hope.

It's a great place to live and an even better place to shop and dine, if you know where to look - and how to listen.

Keep saying you "saw it in Inside SCV"
Since 2005, the publishers and staff of Inside SCV Magazine have been proud to listen, share and become woven into the stories of our community. When you support the small businesses that advertise in this magazine, you support us - and we are grateful. Keep your shopping "small and local" and keep the stories going!
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