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Shop local, people

I moved to New York City almost two years ago and I was surprised at the lack of corporate chain restaurants within the city. For example, the nearest Chili's was in New Jersey.

Growing up in South Mississippi, chain restaurants were common. Look at the area of Moss Point on MS 63 or Crossroads Parkway in Gulfport-they contain almost exclusively chain restaurants.

In New York, I was forced to explore small businesses and mom-and-pop eateries.

I loved them! They offered unique experiences and quality service and food. Even the small "hole-in-the-wall" places.

When I moved back down to South Mississippi, I carried that mentality with me that small businesses have more to offer than chains - especially the restaurants. I avoid chains whenever I can, although it is more difficult here.

Wednesday, I had the opportunity to cover the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce's Anchor Awards where the Chamber recognizes small businesses for their contribution to the community.

There are an abundant number of small businesses from downtown Moss Point to Pascagoula and Gautier to Ocean Springs that I frequent, and I was glad to see them recognized for their achievements - especially in an area where people sometimes seem to prefer chains.

I realize it is difficult here for small businesses to succeed. Time and time again, I've seen local owners open a location only to close it months later.

That is why I will always encourage people to shop local. These local business owners are our neighbors, friends and family.

It's important to support our locally owned restaurants and businesses. Let's help these businesses survive.

Shop local, people.