Art by Jamie Wunning

Supporting Central Illinois Businesses

by Trent Miles

Small businesses have suffered from being forced to close down suddenly and a lack of sales due to people staying home for safety. While this may be a temporary situation, some business owners will shut down permanently. Though one could debate how effective governmental responses have been, we can at least agree that, regardless, this aid can only go so far. We must remember that local neighborhoods and consumers need to step up and support small businesses.

Why support local? Small businesses are essential for our economy. They bring growth and innovation, provide jobs and build opportunities for entrepreneurship, and promote local economies, families, and neighborhoods. They know their customers by name; they are our neighbors and friends, and we care about them. They are what makes our cities unique and memorable. Most are feeling a financial strain right now and are worried about the future. If you need to buy something, try your local store first. If you still have an income, try ordering from your favorite local restaurant once a week.

I had the opportunity to talk to Julie Maag, owner of Rhythm Kitchen Music Café. When asked what we can we do as community members to support small business, she expressed: 

“1. It helps my small business when people buy gift cards. It’s a great way for us to receive money now during a crisis and potentially gets us recognition with new customers. 

2. When people need to buy a gift, a meal, a coffee, a bakery item—they should think of their local small businesses and make the extra effort to support them over national chains. Chances are those small businesses have just a handful of people putting their heart and soul into their placeand products every day. 

3. Keep coming back! It’s those faces we see once a week or every other week that keep us going. Not just financially but emotionally, too! Knowing that our customers want us to survive keeps the energy to work as hard as we do positive. We will work to keep a beloved place open, not just for our families, but for our loyal customers.”

Small business owners enjoy what they do and they play a significant part in helping their local community. These small businesses do a lot to support those who live locally, from having a hometown feel to working hard to know their neighbors. They are risk-takers and innovators. Virtually every new technology, insight, and trend is birthed at businesses like these.

As Peoria community members, we want them to know that they are appreciated—because it’s hard out there right now, and they probably don’t hear it enough. We see them working to give their families, their business, and their communities everything that they’ve got.

There is hope when we come together and support each other and strive to make major improvements. Let’s help these small businesses survive the pandemic.

About Trent Miles

Trent Miles is a rising senior at Richwoods High School and has been working for Big Picture Initiative since May 2020. He is academically competitive and a well rounded student. Trent is the co- founder of his Richwood’s climate action club, Vice President of the Minority Academic Advancement Project, and a varsity tennis player. Outside of school, he is involved in Jack and Jill of America, where he served as the Central Region Teen Vice President in 2018. In his chapter he served as Vice President, Legislative Chair and Foundation Chair. Trent also runs his own environmental blog called “EnviroWrite,” which is a youth-run blog that seeks to innovate how we discuss and inform ourselves on environmental concerns. He has won 1st place in a Regional Best Hobby Exhibits competition and two Regional Alexander Pushkin writing competitions. He has contributed more than 800 hours of community service through various service projects including a winter wear drive, collecting toiletries, and even an educational African-American museum.

About Jamie Wunning 

Jamie Wunning, a junior attending Bradley University, has been an intern for Big Picture Initiative since April of 2020, and now serves as the art director for Giving Voice. She is a student in Bradley’s highly recognized Interactive Media department majoring in Animation with a minor in User Experience Design. As a member of Bradley’s Honor’s program, Jamie strives for academic excellence. Along with interning with Big Picture, Jamie is the media specialist at C.T. Gabbert Remodeling and Construction and is a graphic designer at UniqueeTees. She eagerly shares her talents with Ronald McDonald House and as a mentor to students attending Peoria High School and Lincoln Elementary School. At Bradley, Jamie serves as the President of Adventure Club, Digital Arts Team, and is the social media chair for Bradley’s NERF Club. She is also a member of the National Society for Leadership and Success, Bradley’s Basketball band, and Rock Climbing Club. Jamie is passionate about creating art for others in the form of animation, video editing, traditional art, photography, design, and any other way she can.

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