‘By shopping local, it goes back to your roads, schools, parks and rec’

Locally-owned businesses like Ashley Mercantile (pictured) depend on the community to survive. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Small Business Saturday is a nationwide initiative encouraging communities to support their local shops and retailers. It’s sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, meaning our local small businesses have the added difficulty of the Iron Bowl during the yearly event. 

Ryne Ashley, co-owner of Ashley Mercantile in Cullman’s Warehouse District, reported, “Friday was our best day. We see a consistent drop off when the football games start.”

On Saturday morning, Ashley Mercantile had a line prior to opening and stayed busy until around noon. 

Hanceville business owner Nolan Bradford had a similar experience.

“We had a few show up that morning,” he said, “but afternoon and evening were dead as a doornail. Likely due to the Iron Bowl.” 

Many shops have extended their hours for December.

Ashley said, “During the week, we will be open from 10-7. It will give people a chance to come by. We try to keep things as reasonable as possible. At least 65% of the items in here are going to be $35 or less. If it’s over $35, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be heirloom-grade goods that you’re gonna buy one time and be able to pass down. That means a lot to me and my family.”

Cullman County small businesses offer unique gifts and often showcase products made by local artisans or pieces owners have created themselves. They also provide personal service and courtesies that can make the shopping experience much more enjoyable. 

These local businesses depend on the support of their community to survive, and in return, Cullman County benefits as a whole.

Cullman Economic Development Agency Special Projects Coordinator Susan Eller sat down with The Tribune to explain how shopping local benefits everyone in Cullman. 

“We don’t have a city vs. county sales tax,” said Eller. “Every municipality in Cullman County gets a share of whatever is made in Cullman. I think that’s what makes our community so great is because you really don’t have that competition between communities.” 

Eller provided a breakdown of the City of Cullman’s 9.0% sales tax structure:

  • 4%- $0.04 goes directly to the State of Alabama 
  • Act 81-599 1%- $0.01 
    • Cullman County Board of Education -10%
    • City of Cullman General Fund-45%
    • Cullman County General Fund-15%
    • Cullman County Road Fund-15%
    • Municipalities by population-10%
    • Rural Fire Departments-5%
  • Act 75-30 1%-$0.01
    • City of Cullman General Fund- 50%
    • Cullman County General Fund-50%
  • Act 93-705 1%-$0.01
    • City of Cullman General Fund-40%
    • Cullman County General Fund- 40%
    • Municipalities by population-20%
  • Acts 63,67-71 2469 1%-$0.01
    • Cullman County Board of Education-60%
    • City of Cullman General Fund-40%
  • City of Cullman Education Tax 0.5% $0.005
  • Cullman County-Education Tax 0.5%-$0.005 


Shopping in Cullman is beneficial to everyone in the county by giving to both city and county schools, funding volunteer fire departments and other programs.

“I wish more people were aware that if we are successful in the center of our county, the outer lying areas are going to be successful too,” Eller pointed out. 

When shopping out of town, such as Birmingham and Huntsville, the schools in those communities are benefiting from your tax dollars.

Right now, tax is collected from online purchases, but the tax goes to the State of Alabama with only a tiny fraction making its way to Cullman County. Of that tiny fraction, none of it goes back to our local schools. 

Eller said of online shopping, “That’s what is scary! The schools are getting nothing. As that continues to grow, the schools are the losers. By shopping local, it goes back to your roads, schools, parks and rec, and your services are cheaper. Telling people not to shop in Cullman hurts everybody.” 

Another compelling reason Eller gave for supporting local businesses is the support these businesses give to the community.

“If you need a cheerleader team sponsored or you need your football team sponsored, Amazon isn’t going to give you any money,” she said. “They aren’t going to be a name you see on the back of a T-shirt. They haven’t bought an ad in the program. It’s your local people, your mom and pop stores, that are going to support your local things. Those are your friends and family, so it’s important that you support your local businesses.”

Everyone would like to see better roads, the schools adequately funded, the volunteer fire departments fully equipped, more parks and recreation activities and more money for the community. Every time we choose to shop local and keep the money in Cullman County, we are doing our part to make that happen. 

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