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When we were starting our family, Joe and I lived in Collingswood, and we often walked up to Haddon Avenue to eat at a pizza place that had just opened. We enjoyed talking to the young owner who would tell us about his big plans for the restaurant. If you go to Haddon Ave. today, that pizza place is the very popular and beautiful Villa Barone. Vincenzo Barone was the young owner we spoke to and, 18 years later, his plans have been realized.

Vincenzo has since opened another restaurant in Moorestown (we like to think we were such good customers that he followed us to Moorestown when we moved). His brother John stayed in Collingswood to run Villa Barone. Since I’ve known both brothers since the opening of that first restaurant, I’ve seen all it has taken them to grow their business. It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes they looked really stressed. Sometimes you could tell things were going well, and they were pleased. There were ups and downs, tremendous growth – which can kill a business as easy as it can help it – and changes in the economy.

Throughout it all, Joe and I were their customers. We brought the girls there from the time they were born until today. We’ve gotten to know their long-time employees. We’ve seen the décor change from TVs hanging in the corner to Tuscan murals painted onto the walls. And you can ask us anything about the menu – we know what it used to be and what it is now. We are loyal customers. We want to see the Barone brothers – and many other SJ business owners – succeed.

As a business owner myself, I treasure loyal customers. My first experience with one was only months after Joe and I purchased SJ Magazine. We ran an ad for Angelo Breaux, who owns Family Jewelers in Marlton. The full-page ad was sent to us with the name of an out-of-state jeweler on it. We simply had to take out that name and replace it with Family Jeweler’s info. Only we didn’t. We mistakenly ran the ad with the other jeweler’s name. I apologized (a lot!). Angelo accepted my apology, and we moved on. That was seven years ago, and Angelo has continued to advertise with us regularly. He stood by us when he had good reason to take his business elsewhere. Because of him and customers like him, SJ Magazine has been able to grow. I’m aware of that every day.

Camden County has embarked on a new campaign – Buy Local – that encourages us all-too-frequent businesses in our towns. The campaign touts that if households in Camden County took $10 they were going to spend somewhere else and spent it at a business in Camden County, the economic benefit to the county would be $35 million a year. Imagine if everyone in SJ made the effort to keep their spending dollars here instead of shopping online or driving over the bridge. Think about it — if you live in SJ, everything you need is right here. We have it all. No need to look anywhere else.

So the next time you are planning a shopping trip or a night out, take some time to think about all your options. And buy local.

 

October 2012
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