A red velvet donut, vanilla coconut donut, and a chocolate banana fritter sit on the counter at Ike and Jane Cafe and Bakery in Athens, Georgia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Ike and Jane's bakers generally arrive before 2 a.m. to start making the day's donuts from scratch. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach)

Ike and Jane has announced on Instagram that it will close by the end of the month. The Normaltown doughnut shop celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year. It has gained fame over the past few years by helping to smuggle doughnuts into Sanford Stadium. The shop plans to have events throughout the month to honor its history and say goodbye to the community.

The closure of Ike and Jane and other local businesses underscore how local companies are vital to communities. They shape local culture and grow strong bonds with customers.

I have never been to Ike and Jane, but the outpouring of support for the shop makes me wish I have. Multiple people I know have expressed dismay that it is closing. Similarly, the company’s post announcing its closure was met with a large social media reaction — hundreds of Athens residents have expressed disappointment, demonstrating how important the shop is to locals.

Ike and Jane is not the only local restaurant shutting down. Pouch Pies also closed its restaurant in downtown Athens at the end of October, although it says that it plans to expand its retail efforts in the retail sector and maintain a presence in Athens. The restaurant had been open for over five years.

These are major losses to the community. Though Athens has many of the same big-name chains like Walmart, Target and McDonald’s that every city has, it also boasts several beloved local businesses like Ike and Jane, Pouch Pies or The Grit. It’s often said that small businesses are the backbone of the economy. In many ways, they are also the backbone of local culture. These small companies add to the character and feel of Athens, offering diverse experiences that reflect residents’ wide range of backgrounds and beliefs. They ensure that Athens gives an experience you can’t get anywhere else.

Residents can also become attached to these local businesses, strengthening their pride in their community. A restaurant or shop can become a favorite meeting place or part of someone’s routine. They can be the setting for lifelong memories. For those attached to these businesses, losing them can feel like losing a friend.

Local businesses have great influence over a community’s identity. With the coming closure of Ike and Jane, Athens is losing one of the small businesses that has helped shape the city over the past decade.

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