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Bastrop’s small businesses find community support

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By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

Shoppers and shop owners intermingling on a recent First Friday Art Walk in downtown Bastrop are indicative of the strong support of small businesses in this community. As May is tabbed Small Business Month, people interviewed by the BEDC spoke of the importance of maintaining the economic wellbeing of Bastrop’s small businesses. (The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2012 – the latest statistics available – that there were 5.73 million employer firms in the U.S., and that firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses – and businesses with less than 20 workers made up 89.6 percent.)

Downtown Bastrop at night. (Terry Hagerty Photography)

One shopper from Houston had high praise for the friendly atmosphere in downtown Bastrop while he attended the First Friday Art Walk, saying it was a highlight of his trip. “We love the ambience of downtown Bastrop,” Josh Martin said, as he strolled with family members along Main Street. He said he had come to town for the Trail Racing Over Texas running event at Bastrop State Park. “Small businesses are very important for communities to support. The things you can find here in downtown Bastrop – you just won’t find at a bigger store.” 

Selah Burns holds a tray of tempting treats from Simply Sweet in Bastrop. (Terry Hagerty Photography)

Steven and Sheila Sarff, who own Simply Sweet at 1010 Main St., are typical of the dedicated and warmhearted reception that shoppers – and those just ‘out for a stroll’ – will find in Bastrop. “Business has been good,” Steven said, while he took a break in the delectable bakery which features fresh-baked cupcakes, ice cream and cupcake-sized cheesecake. He said Simply Sweet will mark its 4th year in business in July. “It’s our repeat customers that keep us in business as well as them spreading the word about what we do here,” Steven said. “And we offer samples so our first-time customers can taste the homemade quality we put into each product.”  The succinct message on the back of Steven’s Simply Sweet tee shirt says it all about the popular Bastrop stop – Rediscover Homemade – while nearby, employee Selah Burns held up a tantalizing tray of strawberry-topped cupcakes. 

Valinda Jacobs owns Skeeters Joys in the Mercantile Building at 1022 Main St. The store features everything from ‘singing’ stuffed animals to handmade scarfs and jewelry. Jacobs spoke about the importance of supporting small business: “Small businesses are the backbone of the community. We have a great little downtown here, and we should support each other,” she said.

Valinda Jacobs owns Skeeters Joys in the Mercantile Building in Downtown Bastrop. (Terry Hagerty Photography)

Frank and Pam Ferguson own High Cotton, a vintage-goods store at 922 Main St. During the First Friday Art Walk they enjoyed interacting with dozens of shoppers and browsers who stopped by. The tasty cheesecake-style finger dessert they had near the front door also proved a nifty reason for shoppers to linger a bit longer. “Pam and I love meeting and mixing with people – both of us worked previously in customer-service within businesses,” Frank said. “The First Friday Art Walk has been great for businesses. It’s been that way especially for us the past three First Fridays.” Frank said he and Pam were inspired to open a business on Main Street from previous visits there. “We lived in The Colony and we started coming downtown and really loved it. We just wanted to be a part of it.” 

Steven Sarff aptly summed up what he says ‘drives’ small business owners everywhere: “Having a small business is about the dream of the owner – trying to supply something the public needs and enjoys, and having a one-to-one relationship with customers,” he said.