Monday, April 10, 2017

Why Choose Local? Reasons to Consider Shopping at Small Businesses this Holiday

The older I get, the more carefully I seem to choose where I spend. It's been no secret that I love and value some of the wonderful independent businesses that we are fortunate to have here in our area, and that in many ways I mourn their demise as the commercial landscape of our towns and cities changes. Unfortunately, as the landscape of our world changes - and some might say it "evolves" - I see that we are pulling away from many of the things that are not only favorites of mine, but those elements which held us as a society together. We travel further and faster, multi-task and over-schedule, all in the name of pursing happiness and satisfaction. Our time is so valuable that we can no longer be inconvenienced by visiting several small shops or mom and pop businesses, because that's now considered a waste of time and "inefficient". So we dash hurriedly into the closest Walmart which is "so much better" because of it's all under one roof shopping; endless array of choices; vast square footage which provides the perfect opportunity to emotionally and physically "get lost" and perhaps, not even have to walk around with one's family members anymore. We can buy it all right there while dad gets the tires rotated in the back corner of the complex and the kids hang out at the in-store McDonalds, and then we congratulate ourselves on how much time was saved by not visiting and enjoying and valuing the small shops, family-owned bakeries, mom and pop restaurants and independent hardware stores of the past.

See, I didn't think it was a big waste of time to go to Fishers Hardware that I remember from childhood. It was an experience and a treat, and an exploration of sorts, the kind which today's kids will never know. The tiny bakery over in the shopping center along the highway, who's name has eluded me for years, was my family's choice for holidays and special occasions and it offered a smell unlike nothing else when you tugged that heavy front door open each time, and I never heard my parents complain about how long they had to wait in line. Those places were run by people and human beings, ones that sometimes that attended the same church as we did, or maybe the gentleman behind the counter was who dad played tennis with at the courts down the road, or perhaps mom had been simply going here for decades and couldn't imagine shopping anywhere else for the important moments in life. These were familiar favorites; rituals; segments of life for us, and I grew up thinking in some way that it would always be like that.

And it wasn't. The couple with the bakery are gone, as is the hardware experience, feed store, and that little restaurant run by the lovely family that were always present to welcome their guests. Those familiar faces and comforting experiences are just mists of the past and now, smack dab in the middle of it all now sits a familiar strip of the same big box stores without any distinguishing appearances that could offer a clue as to where in the country you were. It's like we've sanitized everything away that marked our communities and neighborhoods as unique and distinct, and we are now just pale copies of one another, repeatedly endlessly across the countryside.

Fast-forward a few decades and here I am in another state, one made up primarily of small towns and mid-sized cities, and life in some ways has a few of those familiar qualities. I know the faces that are behind the counter at the local hardware store once again, and they stop to listen when I present my situations which are in need of repair, and then they walk through the store with me to locate the parts and supplies required to fix something. I'm friends with the owners of a local cafe which my husband sneaks off to every weekend for coffee and breakfast, and we have the home phone numbers programmed in our cell phones for the best air-conditioning and heat repairman in the area. I'm so incredible lucky to have found myself living in a place like this once again, but it's not magical or enchanted; it's because the big box stores are not quite as welcome here nor is the area built up enough to attract them. One day in the not too far off future, I'm guessing that will change, but for now, these people, places and faces are a part of my life and world.

I hope you get the chance to shop locally this week in preparation for the upcoming holidays of Easter and Passover, and if you are not lucky enough to know the people behind the counters where you go, perhaps now might be a good time to make a change, look around and try a new place. Ask friends and neighbors for suggestions on the independently-owned gems where you live and don't just rush over there and race through, but take the time and a little bit of effort to get to know the real heart and soul of our country, the mom & pop shops and family-operated favorites of our communities. Oh, and one more thing; make your kids leave their phones in the car (and you too), because these aren't the mega-sized buildings a family can disappear into and "get lost" in, but perhaps instead could be where people connect and talk and spend time with each other again.

If you're going to have candy there is nothing like an independent candy shop!

Flowers and plants seem to go hand in hand with Easter. Why not explore a local nursery or greenhouse or garden center today?

Small business owners, don't forget to remind your customers about the unique specialty items that the big box stores don't have!

Well, of course he does, because rabbits are wise. Just like you.

Here are some fun facts about holiday spending to blow your mind.(!!)

I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend IN my community and with the small businesses of the area this week.

It is a lifestyle of sorts, the mindset that one falls into when you have independents to choose from and enjoy. And yes, they close earlier than the chain stores, but we make it work.

Interesting statistics provided by this article here

It's about community and people we know and places we value.

Especially chocolate.

Make the smarter choice. Who knows? You just might find a new hidden gem or fun family place in your exploration of the locally-owned businesses in your area.

Enjoy your holiday!