Bloomington, Indiana – Many Bloomington residents are choosing to support locally owned or small businesses for their holiday shopping this year, a year that has been a challenging time for small businesses nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erin Predmore, Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said the retail, hospitality and food sectors have been most affected. She said small businesses don’t have the same financial resources and inventory that larger ones do to get through tough times.

Another benefit of supporting local businesses is the money stays local, going toward someone’s rent or local taxes, Predmore said.

The Chamber of Commerce website has a gift guide that lists local items by categories such as food, sports, holiday, “For the Has-Everything Already Friend” and “For Bringing Home a Bit of Bloomington.”

Predmore said she’s done some holiday shopping at the Book Corner and Global Gifts on the square.

Talia Halliday, owner of Gather handmade gift shop and Oak plant shop, said shopping has become a more personal experience.

“You know the people that made it, you know the reason why they made it,” she said of local handmade items. “We have become more and more reliant on Amazon, but we’re also becoming more and more aware about where our things are coming from.”

She said she thinks the pandemic has made many people realize the difference shopping locally can make, as people’s favorite restaurants and shops have closed permanently in the past few months.

“It’s really important for us to continue supporting our local businesses during this time all the time, but especially right now because we’re all in a very difficult position,” Halliday said. “Your actions and your shopping make a difference to these people.”

Many local businesses have started offering online shopping in recent months, Halliday said, so people can shop local in a more convenient,safe way. Some of her favorite local businesses include Goods for Cooks, Lola gift shop and Global Gifts.

Halliday said if people don’t have the money to do much holiday shopping, they can also support local businesses by sharing on social media and talking with friends about them.

Bloomington resident Stephanie Austin, 46, said she likes to gift chocolate truffles from The Olive Leaf, cookware from Goods for Cooks, gift cards to local cafes and pet supplies for her 2-year-old terrier mix, Wilee Surefoot, from Mad 4 My Dogs or Pawsome Pets.

“I swear by my local businesses,” Austin said. “I can walk into a local business that I’ve shopped at for a while and they say, ‘Hi, Stephanie,’ and if I’m with my dog they say, ‘Hi, Wilee.’ It’s more personal.”

She said she likes to avoid Kroger, Walmart and other big companies as much as possible. Local businesses seem more in tune with Bloomington issues, she said, and she appreciates that many give back to local nonprofits such as the Boys & Girls Clubs.

IU human biology senior Jordyn Vowels-Duce said she likes to shop at T&T Pet Food & Supply instead of Petco or PetSmart because she prefers buying the higher quality food available and likes that the store helps get stray cats get adopted.

“I prefer to try and support companies that are willing to really give back,” she said.

Vowels-Duce also plans on getting toys for her cat Jabba and dog Scallion. Jabba likes mouse toys and anything dangly and shiny, and Scallion loves stuffed animals.

Gather gift shop is another place Vowels-Duce said she might shop for gifts. She said it would be a good place to look for smaller gifts for someone who likes art. Vowels-Duce said she likes that the shop’s website has filters for queer-owned or Black-owned brands’ products.

“There is a certain privilege to being straight, cisgender and white,” she said. “While I would never stop myself from buying items from someone who has these qualities, I do like to know who I am buying from when I can. I know that Black and queer people have a harder time establishing businesses because of prejudices that are held in society, so I want to try to counteract that if I can.”