LOUISVILLE, Ky - In a day and age when you can find big, corporate companies on nearly every block, some local businesses are standing strong against competition.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in 2016, small businesses made up over 99 percent of the Kentucky business fore. In recent years, there's been more movements to make sure those neighborhood staples stay open.
Jean Gratz lives in the Highlands in Louisville. She said she loves being steps away from so many unique stores and restaurants. She's a frequent customer at Carmichael's Bookstore.
"Their service is wonderful. Their selection is wonderful," Gratz said.
Carmichael's Bookstore co-owner Kelly Estep said this charming store has been helping people get lost in a good book for over 40 years. It all started when her aunt and uncle had a vision. They used to work together at a large bookstore in Chicago before deciding to open a store of their own in Louisville.
"There weren't any big box stores at the time or anything like that. Everything was a neighborhood shop still," Estep said.
They intentionally picked the Highlands, so the store could grow along with the blossoming neighborhood.
In the early 1990s another soon-to-be Louisville business owner came upon an idea while living in California.
"I fell in love with the coffee shop culture in Northern California. I saw Starbucks starting to open stores in the San Francisco area while I was living out there. I decided it was time to move home in 1993 and I couldn't get a good cup of coffee," Heine Brothers' Coffee co-founder and president Mike Mays said.
He teamed up with Gary Heine and the rest was history. Also targeting the Highlands for its unique culture, Heine Brothers' found its first location right next to Carmichael's Bookstore.
"The combination of coffee shop with books in the heart of the Highlands with a little outdoor seating, I don't think we could have found a better location for our first shop. I give Carmichael's credit for helping us get this business launched very powerfully," Mays said.
The same way Carmichael's started before other corporate book stores came to Louisville, Heine Brothers' was also a first-of-its-kind in the city.
"Starbucks came to town about five years after we started, which was really good for us. It gave us a chance to build some loyalty in the community. We had a nice head start on them before they got here," Mays said.
Both Estep and Mays acknowledge that some of the credit goes to timing and some to location. However, they both say it's their commitment to being a good neighbor keeps customers coming back.
"Staying here and staying local and rooted in the neighborhood was the reason we were able to survive," Estep said.
They know people don't buy local 100 percent of the time, but they've seen that the loyalty the business gives to customers contributes to the loyalty the customers give to the business.
"More of those dollars spent with a local business like ours stay in the community. We have local insurance agents. We have local accountants. We buy just about everything we can from local vendors," Mays said.
These locally owned stores are often unique staples of the neighborhoods. Continuing to support those places is what ensures they stay successful for years to come.
"In the last 15 years or so the key has been that the buy local movement has become so big. People are understanding that, if they want their neighborhood to look like their neighborhood and not like every other neighborhood in the United States, they have to shop and support those stores," Estep said.
Both Heine Brothers' and Carmichael's Bookstore were founding members of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance, an organization that brings local business owners together and helps promote the importance of supporting one another. The organization now has over 900 members across Jefferson County.