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The Local Source store officially closed

By Staff | May 4, 2018

Tabitha Johnston/Chronicle The Local Source owner Lillian Potter-Saum stands among the store’s locally-made products on its closing weekend. The store was founded in 2010.

No one ever said owning a small business was easy. And, unfortunately for The Local Source, the economic strain of owning a small business is forcing the store to say goodbye.

Founded in October 2010, The Local Source is one of those “hippy” German Street stores that blended in perfectly with the vibe of the town.

“Some people have to create – they can’t not create. I thoroughly loved working with the local crafters and promoting them,” said owner Lillian Potter-Saum, who bought the store from her previous employers in early 2012. She publicly announced the store’s closing on April 20.

Potter-Saum said the two best things about owning her own business have been working with customers and seeing the small businesses she supports develop into successful operations.

“I’ve got to see some of my crafters from here open their own businesses, like Tonic,” Potter-Saum said. “That’s been the most gratifying thing, seeing artisans and crafters here grow their business through our help.”

To create a minimal carbon footprint, The Local Source sold a wide variety of items from artisans and crafters within a 20-mile radius of Shepherdstown and avoided branching out into online sales.

“To my detriment, I refused to sell online. I abhor Amazon and Walmart, and anybody who knows me knows that I am keeping my carbon footprint absolutely minimal,” said Potter-Saum. “I had to be true to me and to the mission of the store.”

The store also served as a center for collecting recyclables, according to Potter-Saum. She said Shepherdstown Visitors Center is working with her to take over collecting some of those items, like wine corks and batteries.

As she empties out the store over the next couple of weeks, Potter-Saum will continue to be true to the store’s mission, minimizing her carbon footprint by finding local vendors to take the items the artisans and crafters aren’t taking back themselves.

“I’m a very risk-averse person when it comes to finances, and we had a very hard winter. A small business rarely has enough capital to keep you floating for a month or two,” she said, mentioning Christmas and the Contemporary American Theater Festival tend to be her biggest sale times of the year. According to Potter-Saum, last year’s CATF revenue was down, forcing her to go a couple thousand dollars into debt to stay afloat.

“I have mixed emotions about the closing, but it’s time,” said Potter-Saum’s husband, Dan Saum. “This is a moment in her life when she needs change, and hopefully this will be a good one.”

Around the same time the couple moved their personal residence to Shepherdstown at the beginning of this year, Saum suffered two strokes within three days, which he’s gradually recovering from. The cost of health care without good insurance has added an additional economic burden to the couple. However, they’ve weathered together through some difficult storms in the past, including the death of one of their two children at age nine.

On Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Town Run Tap House and Community Pub, a fundraiser with a silent auction and live music will be held to help pay off the store’s debts.

Potter-Saum said the things she appreciates most about Shepherdstown are the strong friendships the couple has developed within the community.

“I’m not going away, just the store’s going away,” Potter-Saum said, adding that she’s now working at True Treats Historic Candy in Harpers Ferry. “I’ll miss The Local Source, but I’m very blessed. I love my tribe. I’ve always said, if something bad’s going to happen to you, thank God for Shepherdstown.”