#SupportLocal highlights passion and perseverance of small businesses

May 28, 2021

U.S. Bank is supporting and celebrating customers with a social media campaign as economy recovers.

Gesinee Van Atta and her staff have helped thousands of brides find the perfect dress in the more than 30 years she’s owned Gesinee’s Bridal in downtown Concord, California. But when Van Atta reflects on why she loves running a small business, she remembers one customer in particular. 

A young woman who was in a wheelchair had come into her store after visiting dozens of other retail chains, frustrated that no one was taking her seriously. Gesinee’s staff helped her find a dress that fit perfectly, and when she tried it on, the bride-to-be and her family burst into tears of happiness because she looked so beautiful.

“Our customer service is very personal,” Van Atta said. “When you see you the bride and the family cry with happiness – my goodness, you know you’ve really helped to make their day truly special.”

Small businesses are the backbone of our local communities, employing almost half of the total U.S. workforce, and will be the cornerstone of our recovery as we continue to emerge from the pandemic. Throughout the month of May, U.S. Bank has celebrated small businesses with a #SupportLocal social media campaign that highlighted the creativity and resilience of entrepreneurs who own small businesses.

“Whether they’re in small towns or a large city, small businesses have an incomparable emotional connection with customers. While the past year has hit small businesses particularly hard, they persevered and demonstrated immense ingenuity,” said Lynn Heitman, executive vice president, business banking segment leader at U.S. Bank. “U.S. Bank is committed to supporting small businesses with all of our products and services coupled with the expertise of our bankers.”

The seven small businesses featured along with Gesinee’s Bridal during the monthlong campaign are: Celebrity Cake Studio in Tacoma, Washington; Liberty Puzzles in Boulder, Colorado; Salon Lavish in Milwaukee; Rancho Roble Vineyards in Lincoln, California; and Al’s Breakfast and TRI-Construction, both in Minneapolis.


Al’s Breakfast, a beloved 10-foot wide, 14-seat countertop-service restaurant, is as famous for its walnut blueberry pancakes as it is for being on the narrowest restaurant in Minneapolis. In normal times, the cozy quarters helped forge countless friendships among onetime strangers and created a strong sense of community.

The unique space encourages customers to “come together in a weird little community,” said Alison Kirwin, who owns 70-year-old Al’s Breakfast. “If it wasn’t for sitting at the counter with these people they see week after week, a lot of these people would have never gotten to know each other.”

Like most restaurants during the pandemic, Al’s Breakfast had to pivot to takeout only and also launched a giving campaign through its website to help stay afloat. Esquire Magazine last December named it to its list of “100 Restaurants America Can’t Afford to Lose,” a compilation of establishments around the country selected to raise a toast to because “if we lose them, we lose who we are.”


Not every small business has been impacted in the same way by COVID. Liberty Puzzles was founded by two friends, Chris Wirth and Jeff Eldridge, in 2005 as a tribute to the hand-cut, intricately artistic wooden jigsaw puzzles popular in the 1920s and 1930s. While the company has been growing every year, stay-at-home orders that went into place last spring turbocharged demand. To help chip into the weeks-long waiting list, Liberty recently added new manufacturing capacity.

“There was so much demand during the COVID shutdown, and we were starting to see a whole secondary market of people reselling them,” Eldridge said. ”We knew we had to make a meaningful change” to increase production.


Calvin Littlejohn, CEO of TRI-Construction, enjoys seeing projects completed and knowing they’ll be a fixture of the community for years to come. His company has been operating in the Minneapolis area for more than 20 years, building everything from affordable housing units to landmarks like U.S. Bank Stadium.

“Small businesses are the heart and the backbone of America,” he said. “As an African-American businessman, I get to help spread that wealth and bring a level of empowerment to my community.”

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