Lehan Drugs encourages employees to spend at small businesses in DeKalb

December 3, 2018 GMT

DeKALB – Lehan Drugs was the rising tide that lifted all locally owned boats on Sunday.

For the sixth year in a row, the DeKalb-based small business passed out $100 to each of its employees with no strings attached, save one: They had to spend the cash at a locally owned business. About 60 Lehan Drugs employees – joined by a few from OC Creative – met in Frank Buer Plaza at noon Sunday to do just that.

After huddling together for a group photo and singing a chorus of “Happy birthday!” in honor of Lehan patriarch Jim Lehan Jr., the employees scattered across DeKalb’s downtown. Some headed to Lincoln Inn for lunch, and others grabbed a snack at Barb City Bagels, where the company had a tab going.

“The reason that we wanted to start doing it was to draw attention to shopping local; to locally owned businesses, not chains,” said Tim Lehan, who co-owns the business with his wife, Ann. “We’re trying to encourage other businesses to start doing it also, but it gets kind of expensive. I think we have 60 here today, so that’s $6,000 just to go spend locally, which is a big impact.”

It’s an effect that small-business owners in the city appear to be thankful for. Daniel Watson, owner of Herbal Embers – a small shop in downtown DeKalb that sells crystals, essential oils, local art and more – welcomed multiple Lehan Drugs employees to his store Sunday.

“I like [the] idea. I really wish there’d be more businesses that take their success and sort of spread it,” Watkins said.

“It doesn’t have to be that big.

With small businesses, just a little bit of help gives a big step up. When our income is attached directly to what we sell, then that makes it really important. Even a little bit is nice.”

Lehan Drugs employees expressed agreement.

“It’s amazing, especially being a family-owned business, that this is kind of their way of involving their staff, to be aware of local businesses and getting out there,” said Patty Croom, who has worked at the pharmacy for four years. “It’s just an amazing thing that they can do for all of their employees.”

Patricia Hager, who was sharing a meal with Croom at Lincoln Inn, said it’s helpful for employees and business owners to have the bump around the holidays.

“My husband and I both work for small, family-owned businesses, and his is in Sycamore and mine is in DeKalb, and we really like to spend as much money locally as we can, because we know how that affects businesses,” Hager said. “I come out every year and we go to The Confectionary and we get the chocolate Santas that go in the stocking. It’s gotta be there.”

Although The Confectionary is a local hotspot, Hager said she also appreciates the opportunity to discover new businesses.

“DeKalb’s [downtown] has changed a lot over the last couple of year,s so it’s kind of nice this year to come and look at all of the ones that we haven’t seen before, and to visit those stores and see what’s going on,” she said.

Additionally, the event is an opportunity for local businesses to find out what Lehan Drugs is up to. The $100 is distributed in $2 bills as a way of drawing attention to the tradition.

“The $2 bills are significant because they’re different,” Tim Lehan said.  “When somebody gets the $2, they know or we tell them that we are shopping local at a locally owned business before Christmas.”

Interested parties do not need a $2 bill to participate in the effort.