Why local support matters for Lassen County businesses now more than ever 

Big Valley Market, a much-loved grocery store in Bieber, is a lifeline for many locals, but recent energy price hikes now threaten the store’s survival. Over a decade ago, owners Tammy and Tim Babcock noticed small businesses closing across northeastern California as people relocated to cities with a lower cost of living. The couple decided to purchase the store in a bid to keep rural America alive and thriving. Yet, now Big Valley Market — along with many other local businesses — are feeling the pinch as energy rates rise across the state. It’s therefore never been more important for Lassen County’s rural communities to rally together and support local businesses, so they can grow and prosper in the long-term.

Big Valley Market: the lifeblood of the local community
Located just below the Big Valley Mountains, Big Valley Market serves loyal customers from the small nearby towns of Bieber, Adin, Nubieber and Lookout. This tight-knit community (made up of around 1,500 people) has played a key role in the store’s success. It’s the main place locals can buy essentials like bread, rice, fresh fruit, milk and water. The only alternative stores are long drives away.

If we close, people have to cross over a mountain, and in the winter, the road is covered with ice and snow,” said Tammy Babcock. “We have to help take care of our people, our senior citizens.”

Energy rate rises threaten rural businesses
Due to Pacific Gas & Electric’s recent energy rate rises, the Babcocks expect to spend at least $40,000 on electricity bills this year. However, these increases are occurring across the entire state of California, and Big Valley Market sadly isn’t the only local business affected by eye-watering hikes. According to PG&E, medium-sized businesses (such as, Big Valley Market) will now pay 17 percent more this year on average, whereas small businesses will pay 21 percent more.

 The power of community involvement
Now more than ever, Lassen County’s small and medium-sized businesses need the support of the community to survive and thrive and vice versa. Local businesses benefit everyone as they stimulate the local economy, create jobs, and often give back to local causes and charities (far more than big business typically does). And, when businesses get involved in the local community, they form stronger relationships with customers, suppliers and other local businesses, which can open up the door to new marketing opportunities that grow loyal customer bases.

Business partnerships can be an effective way for two local businesses to support and promote each other, gain access to new customer bases, and ultimately increase revenue. In fact, 54 percent of U.S. companies say partnerships result in more than 20 percent of their total profits. Partnerships can range from simple friendly shout-outs on social media to product or service collaborations. Through these kinds of collaborations, each business advertises the other to their own customers, so both companies reach larger audiences.

Read business contracts carefully to protect your interests
For longer-term business partnerships, it’s useful to create a formal written contract that outlines the terms of the partnership and the responsibilities of each party, so as to avoid misunderstandings and conflict, as well as minimize legal risk (between 36 percent to 53 percent of small businesses are sued every year in the U.S.). However, it’s not uncommon for business owners to sometimes agree to contract terms that aren’t really in their best interests — often because they simply didn’t read over the contract carefully enough. But, it’s important to always study contracts in detail to protect your best interests, and avoid agreeing to something you otherwise wouldn’t.

Support local businesses, keep communities strong
Customers can also be proactive in their support for Lassen County’s local businesses and help keep their communities strong. For instance, shoppers who haven’t done so already can big up their favorites on social media. Leave positive, detailed reviews on review sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. More than 92 percent of customers look at online reviews when deciding whether or not to make a purchase, so this can be a great way to encourage new customers and sales.

Customers can also make an effort to shop locally in-person more often, rather than from major brands online. Go to the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce directory to search for exciting new businesses to visit. Shoppers may find that local stores stock items they typically purchase online, and can now make a switch to support local businesses.

As California’s energy prices continue to rise, Lassen County’s small and midsize businesses, including Big Valley Market, need community support now more than ever. By strengthening their community ties, local businesses will find it easier to stay afloat and thrive in the long term.

Nina Summer, Author, Special to lassennews.com.