My Stomach Is a Fan of Local Small Businesses

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks to American Express for sponsoring my writing today about small businesses. American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27. They're offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for "Likes" of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook. Join the celebration by clicking the "Like" button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.

When I announced to the interwebs that I'd be moving back from D.C. to Ohio, my decision was met with a lot of (anonymous, cowardly) criticism by people who insisted that there's no culture in Ohio, nothing but chain restaurants & WalMarts & people with mullets wearing camo pants.

There are a lot of chains in the Midwest, it's true, & I'm not ashamed to admit that one of the greatest joys of being back in the 'burbs is the ease of trips to Hobby Lobby & Target. But it's not all a big-business nightmare! It's no D.C., sure, but if you make an effort to seek them out, there are tons of small businesses around town worthy of frequenting.

In honor of American Express's Small Business Saturday, I want to tell you about three of my favorite small businesses in the Akron/Cleveland area. And because I am Jewish & therefore culturally permitted to be a big fan of all things concerning cuisine, all three of my choices are food-related. Herrrre goes!

  • Rockne's
    This local pub chain was opened by the father of one of my elementary school classmates in the early '90s. And though their website could fool you into thinking it's still the '90s, there are now 12 Rockne's locations across Northeast Ohio, each individually owned. When I was living in D.C., I was known to dine Rockne's three times in as many days in an effort to consume as much Cuban Black Bean Soup as humanly possible. On Foursquare, I hold two Rockne's mayorships. Clearly, this is a love that will never die. 

  • Crazy But True Popcorn
    I don't even like popcorn, kids. Like, if I'm at the movies? It's nachos, please, or gummy bears. And I once refused to eat popcorn for nearly a year after discovering that the buttery topping looks like a brain tumor when it's still packaged in bulk barrels. So it's crazy, but it's true: I love Crazy But True Popcorn, which I discovered just last month, with its buckets upon buckets of flavors. Savory. Candied. Chocolate-covered & peanut-butter drizzled. Free samples. I die. And did I mention that they're also super-philanthropic? I keep dying.

  • Swenson's Drive-In
    When I was a kid, my dad & I had a routine. He'd pick me up from ballet class & on our way home, we'd stop at Swenson's, a drive-in where the servers bring the food to your cars. He'd order a burger & fries; I'd order a grilled cheese & tots. And there was always a mint sundae in it for me at the end. Swenson's, a Northeastern Ohio institution if ever there was one, was once voted "Best Burger" by Forbes magazine, along with a handful of Buckeye State publications. Bottom line is that you need to be jealous that you don't have one. And then come visit me so we can go there together.

Do you shop & eat local when you can, or are you a big-business devotee? What's your fave small business? And most importantly, who wants to go get dinner with me? And by the way: For each person who likes Small Business Saturday on Facebook, American Express will donate $1 to Girls, Inc., one of my favorite non-profits. What are you waiting for?

Small Business Saturday

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.


  1. I cannot NOT mention how much I love Swenson's. A friend of mine who was in town for the campaign said it was the best food she ate in Ohio while she was here, and some of her favorite food ever.

    Galley Boy, Potato Teasers with Ranch, Mint/Chocolate milkshake

  2. I consider anything regional to not be a chain so I have to profess my love for Quaker Steak, Rocco's, and Panini's. I've found suitable replacements for the other two, but I've yet to find wings that could even remotely match Quaker Steak.

    I'm also dying to go to Winking Lizard while I'm here at home. They have this one burger that is to die for that they make on garlic bread. MMMmmm, already counting down to it.

  3. Well, what can I say? Certain chain stores are pretty awesome (love me some Target!), but I do love small independent stores just as much and I love to support local businesses if I can.

  4. Try Chowder's quite the funky little eatery. They use a lot of local meat and produce and have some great appetizers. They don't have a liqour license so it's byob, which in my opinion is an awesome bonus...I'd rather bring my own bottle wine anyway=)

  5. I shop and eat locally all the time. Spent the past 24 hours at three ethnic restaurants that are not chains.

  6. The original Rockne's is now Becker's. I shed a small tear.

  7. All of these businesses sound super awesome. Especially the popcorn.

  8. If I can help it, I shop local. Except for Target. I can't help shopping at Target.

    I eat locally almost the time and avoid chain restaurants at all costs, with a few rare exceptions when I'm out of town.


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