I believe the people who take a chance, go out on a limb and have the courage to start their own business are often overlooked in our world today......

The folks across this country who have been behind counters for decades.....those who have opened a small shop each morning and then swept down the floors of a family icon at the end of each day.....the mom and pop owners who have greeted countless numbers of visitors and guests who turned into friends and family over their decades of service.....this is the true heart and soul of America. Their stories are what weaves into the colorful shades of our lives, the legacy of our communities, and the sense of belonging into a neighborhood and we cannot wait until suddenly, one day when they are no more, to notice them. We cannot overlook the contributions of such individuals; we must never take the special characteristics of an independent for granted; and above all, we must remember to always make them a part of our lives to be celebrated and enjoyed and supported.

We, the people, who operate your favorite places, hometown favorites and beloved icons all over the country, are more than just faces....

We sponsor your Little League teams, assist in holding emergency benefits for a neighbor in need, offer our lobby and parking lot for civic groups to set up in...

We've opened up our shop upon request and after hours, because you forgot dessert and desperately need one of our famous cakes before heading off to a family gathering....

Cheerfully we take the flyers and announcements that you hand us for upcoming events, fire department dinners and missing pets to place in our windows, because we have no "corporate policy" which would ban such things....

We greet you at church, teach your children, donate boxes of snacks to the troops serving overseas, and bring a surprise cake to your mom's 90th birthday party....

Occasionally we've closed up shop an hour early to gather with members of our town at the local airport to welcome home a soldier from deployment, join in a prayer service at church following a local tragedy or stand on the sidewalks to wave flags during the veterans Day parade....

We've been known to stop off at your house on the way home to bring you the special gift you had ordered but can't get out of work in order to pick it up....

We hire the babies that you brought into the store as infants, and which have now grown into teenagers, for their first "real" job....

Our bakery displays a few handwritten signs explaining that our products have the highest quality ingredients and that yes, we do still use American-made ingredients and supplies....

We are the ones that wrote an IOU on a slip of paper when your child came in for an ice cream but had forgotten to bring money.....

We've cried with you when a visit brings the sad news that your father has finally passed; toasted the announcement of your daughter's wedding; met, held and admired your very first grandchild....

We live and breathe the opportunity to rise again each morning and reopen the family business; the diner; the hardware store; the service company. Our dedication is evident in the work we do and our heart and soul is here where we live and love and grow....

It is impossible to think that the passion felt by the people of these places could ever hold a candle to the muted, distant and anonymous experiences found in the chains and at the big box stores......our community is us and we are it.