'Black Friday' is behind us and 'Cyber Monday' is upon us, but in the middle this weekend was 'Small Business Saturday' and Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari is urging everyone to keep those stores in mind throughout the holiday shopping season this year.

Christmas bonus
Pictac, ThinkStock

"When you're buying locally, you're helping a local neighbor or a friend get a job," explained Vicari.

He adds that 98% of all the stores in Ocean County are owned by small businesses, which is one reason it's important to shop locally.

"We want to make sure that people buy within Ocean County," said Vicari."We want to make sure that when you buy in Ocean County, you're protected by the Department of Consumer Affairs if there's any kind of a problem and you'll also have your product before Christmas and before any holiday season."

Another reason it's important to shop at small businesses, Vicari explains, is because it helps provide a boost to the local economy.

"For every dollar you spend, it circulates at least six-times around and it's very important," said Vicari. "We begin this program starting now, and want to extend it to 12-months of the year."

Whether it's searching for those last minute stocking stuffers or operating on a tight budget, shopping locally can cater to both of those needs and Vicari adds is where you'll also receive that one-on-one service.

"The small businesses really value your business," said Vicari. "They give you the individual services, they say 'please and thank you', and they want you to come back again."

Vicari then adds, "what we're looking for in Ocean County is for people to come back to the same stores again, and the local businesses especially in the downtown areas we want to support," said Vicari. "One way of doing it is during the holiday season."

So as you're heading out to find gifts for family and friends over the next few weeks, Vicari is urging residents to shop at those local stores, find a variety of items, and avoid the hassle of sending away for gifts.

"Think twice before you buy something online," said Vicari. "There is no protection when you buy something online, and when you get it you may not be satisfied with it and then you have to return it, and there's always some kind of a problem."

As you check your list twice to see what gifts you need to buy this holiday season, why not shop locally at these small businesses in Ocean County?

Vicari adds that by doing so, you're not only crossing things off your gift list, but helping boost the local economy by buying in local shops.

"Many people in Ocean County have part-time jobs during the holiday season," said Vicari. "This is what they use to pay their mortgage, buy Christmas presents and put food on the table."

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