By Dan Groberg With the news that Hobby Lobby will be moving into the Berlin Mall, there has been much conversation about the impact it might have on Montpelier’s small businesses. Recently voted the Best Small Town for Shopping in the United States by USA Today 10 Best, Montpelier has a thriving downtown with dozens of independently owned businesses. There is a sense of pride the Capital City carries on its shoulders, as visitors frequent the streets and observe its quaint charm. Hobby Lobby has a controversial reputation. The franchise has over 960 stores in 47 states, and is considered an ‘arts and crafts store’, much like Joann Fabrics and Michael’s. Like many large box stores, Hobby Lobby has the potential to distract local shoppers from patronizing the small businesses that drive the economic success of our community. There are many reasons why big chain box stores can have a harmful impact on local small businesses. It is clear that stores such as Hobby Lobby, which are owned by private corporations outside of the state, funnel money away from the local economy in comparison with stores owned by local community members. Money spent at a small local business is likely to stay in its community. With such steep competition on multiple levels, small businesses are at risk of closing in due time, leaving the main streets potentially lifeless or desolate. Unlike Hobby Lobby, Montpelier’s business owners genuinely care about the community and their employees. They often donate to local nonprofits, or participate in events that fuel the local economy. For instance, Montpelier Alive has partnered numerous times with downtown businesses and the Vermont Foodbank and Montpelier Food Pantry to create fundraisers that support families in need. Often local businesses will donate a percentage of their profits to area nonprofits. In a recent article in USA Today about how small businesses support each other, a business owner stated “Most of today’s entrepreneurs care about more than the bottom line; they want to make money while helping the community and environment, not hurting it.” Small businesses are inherently unified by the desire to see their communities thrive.There are many local alternatives to Hobby Lobby. There are several Montpelier stores that feature the arts and provide supplies that are of equal or higher quality than what you might find at Hobby Lobby. The Drawing Board is our fantastic art supplies store on Main Street, and nearby is Notion, focusing on fabric, yarn, and handicraft projects. Across the street is Capital Stationers, offering a wide variety of items from souvenirs to office supplies. You might find some useful vintage crafting items at Antiques at 110 Main, or J. Langdon Art and Antiques. Cool Jewels offers beading and jewelry making supplies. We are so lucky to have these businesses and more at our fingertips. Businesses like these are what make our small town shine, and they are a valuable piece of the picture that has put Montpelier on the map for Number 1 Best Small Town for Shopping in the United States! Please support your local businesses, and keep the big box stores from harming our wonderful downtown. Dan Groberg is the Executive Director of Montpelier Alive, and, for full disclosure, is married to the owner of Notion, a downtown Montpelier store mentioned in this article. The Bridge welcomes commentary about important issues that affect our local community. Commentary published on these pages does not necessarily reflect the views of The Bridge, its staff or its advertisers.