It’s my favorite time of the year next to the first day of school. I’m one of those crazy Christmas-loving people who listens to Christmas music in October. There is so much to see and do in and around the Lake Minnetonka area.

Excelsior really goes the extra mile with their Christmas in Excelsior Saturdays. They deck the halls, bring in Santa, host a free movie along with the Aaron Thompson Memorial Food Drive. You can find wagon rides and hot cocoa with Santa on Saturdays as well. For a complete look at what there is to do visit www.Excelsior-lakeminnetonkachamber.com.

It’s also a time when we, the local residents, can go the extra mile in supporting our local retailers and restaurants and shop local. Our community has an ebb and flow of new businesses opening and older businesses closing.

There is a circle of life in the world of business. Many are outraged when a local business closes, regardless of the reason. I’m still mourning the loss of Antiquity Rose in Excelsior. At the same time, I’m thrilled for the owners and their retirement. A very well-deserved retirement after so many years.

We see many messages about shopping local during the holidays. Shopping local doesn’t have to stop with a retail store or restaurant. We have a host of businesses in the area where we could be spending and supporting our local community.

You might have a friend or neighbor who is an entrepreneur with their own home-based business. The holidays are a great time to support those friends and neighbors and learn more about what they do. Likely, they will turn around and spend locally as well.

There is something else you can do from home to support your favorite local businesses, and it doesn’t cost a dime. You can leave a review on Yelp, Google or Facebook for the businesses you love to frequent. Share your experience.

Many are quick to leave a review and feedback when they have a bad experience, but not as quick on the draw for a good experience. Reviews are very helpful for other consumers and local businesses.

Pick three to five local businesses that you frequent and leave a review for each. Owners love the feedback and it might just give them a boost in the arm during an incredibly busy time. Of course, the idea with a business is to generate income, but many do so because they are passionate about what they do. They want to share their talents with the rest of us. Hearing positive feedback is very encouraging.

When we shop local and shop at small businesses, you often are shopping with the owner. I’ve not met someone at a toy store who knows more about toys than Pei-Lyn Yap at Something Safari in Excelsior. I can walk in and give her the age a child and she can point me to the perfect gift. Chances are she knows that child. I’ve shopped with her for my kids, now I’m doing so for my grandson.

You can walk into Ooh La La and owner Connie Frederick will likely be there. This is a woman who will give you an honest opinion about how you look in the clothes she carries. She also has an eye for what is coming in terms of trends and style.

Another example is South Lake Agency Insurance Brokers, which is run by Andrew Biscay. From home and auto to life or business insurance, Biscay is passionate about finding the best insurance fit for his clients and community members. Biscay has a local business and gives back locally as well.

Simply, we have no shortage of local businesses to support not just during the holidays, but year-round as well. Think outside the box and shop with your friends who have home-based businesses. Leave reviews, and share your experiences on social media.

The more we support our local businesses, the longer we can enjoy them.

You can learn more about Natalie Webster and her adventures in the Lake Minnetonka area at WebsterEffect.com.

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