The rise of internet sales motivated the coining of a new word to describe an issue for physical stores — showrooming.
Showrooming refers to what happens when a customer looks at an item they want to purchase in a brick-and-mortar store and then buy the item from an online retailer.
"When you do that, that's not OK at all. You were here in the store, you saw what you wanted, you need to support your local business who helped you figure out why you wanted it in the first place," said Julie Bodenhamer, co-owner of Rendezvous Adventure Outfitters in Lindsborg. "Knowledgable salespeople matter."
Lindsborg Hardware owner Bob McCall said online retailers have taken a huge bite out of the sale of higher-ticket items like tools and pet supplies. Feeling that pinch is one of the reasons he has put his store up for sale.
Julie admitted she understands why customers are lured into showrooming, given the options of delivery to their doorstep and, often, a lower price point.
Amazon, the world's largest e-commerce marketplace, changed many customer's shopping habits.
"Amazon is a big problem," Julie said. "Everybody in small towns, honestly, relies on Amazon — because how are you going to get stuff without driving miles and miles — but then it becomes a crutch and they forget that they can support their local businesses because they've just gotten used to buying it online and Amazon makes it so easy."
Julie noted some premium outdoor brands have adopted minimum advertised price policies. Retailers are allowed to sell the brand's items only they agree to abide by the company's set retail price.
"They're trying to create a level playing field," Julie said.
Crystalen Breeden said she was forced to close Fetch Coffee Shop in McPherson when her daughter became ill and other family members required her aid. Rather than being able to rely on them to assist in running the coffee shop, she had to lock its doors.
"Business was good, I just couldn’t afford to pay for help and was hoping it would be more ran with my family," Breeden said. "I miss it, (but) things came up."
Managing the finances of a small business is a delicate balancing act.
"Because you're a small business, your budget isn't huge but you have to get the word out just as much as a large business, so how do you find the advertising dollars? That's tricky, because if people don't know you exist, you're going to stay pretty small," Julie said. "It's definitely a dance."
"Some days we think 'this is the best' and other days it's like, 'what were we thinking?"said Rick Bodenhamer, co-owner of Rendezvous Adventure Outfitters.
When the Bodenhamers opened their store, they soon learned owning a business was very different from managing one.
"Ownership is great, being your own boss and everything, but it sure comes with a whole set of issues," Julie said.
Getting free advice from the Kansas Small Business Development Center at Wichita State University aided the Bodenhamers in the launch of their business.
"Another great resource for us was the McPherson Chamber of Commerce," Rick said.
Being located in a small town that draws from two larger cities nearby gives the Bodenhamers an opportunity to focus on personal service for their customers.
"We can really take our time and get to know them and we love that," Julie said.
"I love being in downtown Lindsborg," said Molly Johnson, owner of The Good Merchant. "I feel so lucky that I'm here, because it's not like this everywhere."
Much of the local support for small businesses comes from the Lindsborg Ad Hoc Roundtable, an open forum group that meets weekly in Lindsborg.
"Everybody works together so wonderfully here and the Ad Hoc group is just amazing," Johnson said.
"This town is incredible and we really do have good people who try (to support local businesses)," Julie said.
Assisting the people who are looking for their products — whether they live in the area or are just passing by — is a big part of the Bodenhamer's motivation for building their business and their perseverance to keep it open.
"The personal touch matters to me and I hope it matters to folks who come in the door," Julie said.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.