The first time I met the owner of a local independent business, I was totally starstruck.

It was a downtown coffee shop and I happened to be caught in the middle of a conversation between him and the barista. I don’t even think I was able to look him in the eye when he smiled and said hello to me. After I walked out the door, I had an urge to call my mom to tell her what had happened—almost like I’d just met Johnny Depp but with coffee.

I was born and raised in a big city. A large metropolis that burst at the seams with big box stores and chains galore. In fact, I don’t think in my 18 years of living in said city, I ever patronized a local independent store. If I did, I didn’t know about it.

Meeting the owner of a business in the city would be like me meeting Sam Walton, or Jeff Bezos, Mr. and Mrs. Target or The Office Depot family, so, meeting an owner was huge for me.

A few months went by after my run in with Johnny Depp, er, coffee shop owner, and during that time I fell in love with that store. In fact, I spent a lot of my free time buying endless cup of coffee until they finally offered me a job. I ended up working there for about seven years (on and off) and yes, I may have been there for the free coffee, but I stayed because I became friends with the owner, his wife, and his kids. In fact, his daughter is now one of my best friends. I stayed because the family who owned the business believed in the business and our town so much that I also ended up believing in them.

They helped me out when I was struggling for money and a job, and I in turn, watched as they struggled too. But when things were slow for them, they still donated and volunteered like their resources were endless. They attended town meetings, voiced their passions, and supported other businesses like everyone was a partner.

Through that coffee shop I started meeting other business owners, said “hi” to them on the streets, called them by name, and saw the same generosity and passion for this town.

It goes well beyond that friendly feeling though. Helping local independent businesses out not only helps the families that run the business, but it helps any family living here in Durango. In fact, studies show that for every $100 spent locally, $68 stays in the community and when these business owners make money, they don’t use it to “take over the world of conglomerate mega chains”. They sustain themselves, their business, and then they give back to other businesses and the community. They create a way for us all to live so that we can all walk into coffee shops and say “hi” to the owners—or blush and run away to tell your mom you just met Johnny Depp and he owns a coffee shop.