Community businesses need our support, patronage

A little over a week ago Gwinnett and many local cities encouraged residents to participate in Shop Small Saturday. The program, designed by American Express but latched onto by local companies, encourages support of small businesses in lieu of large national chains or online retailers.

Over the past few years I’ve driven by too many strip centers and store fronts sitting empty, so I’ve tried to spend my dollars more locally in the hopes these mom-and-pop businesses will remain open.

One of our family’s favorite local spots is Kiko’s Tacos & More. We think of it as our own personal “Cheers.” The owners recognize and welcome us when we walk in the door. Our favorite waiter meets us at the table with our drink order. He knows my daughter likes her cheese dip without jalapenos.

This local Mex spot recently went through a downsizing after having been in the same location for 17 years. We watched this family, who has been in the restaurant business in Gwinnett County since 1986, navigate the process of all new inspections and licenses to reopen in their new, smaller location.

I anticipated ranting about the business licensing process. But when I spoke to proprietor, Kiko Alanis, he told me he feels Gwinnett makes things as easy as possible for entrepreneurs like himself. All the necessary forms are online and the county has well-trained staff available to answer questions.

I’m still amazed by the cost though. The alcohol beverage license costs $7,200 annually, along with a business license over $300. The liquor license forms are 29 pages long requiring everything but the kitchen sink in the way of personal and financial information.

Naturally there are necessary fire and health inspections. Obtaining the license after these inspections, and assuming all the forms are in order, takes a minimum of six to eight weeks. Then there are state licenses.

Our current Gwinnett commissioners have promised more transparency and a renewed effort to improve overall economic development. I suppose I would challenge them to also take a closer look at the fees and regulations businesses encounter to open and remain viable.

Let’s continue to streamline procedures and let our small business owners know they are greatly appreciated as a vital part of our community’s sustainability.

Kiko focuses on getting to know his customers and providing quality food with excellent service. I suggest our county and state governments continue, or adopt, the same attitude of support and gratitude toward all local small businesses.

May I also suggest let’s not just Shop Small Saturday once a year? Let’s go ahead and make it Shop Small Weekly.

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