I admit, I have an Amazon account. I may love to shop local, but nothing is ever all black or all white, is it? I recognize that sometimes I’m just not going to find what I’m looking for at the local independent shops. And sometimes it’s just easier to have it delivered. And, that’s okay. I still consider myself a “localist” because I believe in the value of shopping locally, which is why I shop local whenever I can.
I used to shop local purely for enjoyment. I loved browsing the little stores all over our city. And even while traveling, my husband and I loved exploring little towns, strolling up and down the Main Streets, grabbing a bite and a beer at a local restaurant. One of us (me) perusing the local shops while one of us (he) patiently waited outside.
These days I still shop local because I enjoy it. But it’s also a conscious decision to support the local businesses in my area. Why? There are countless online sources that can give you the facts about why shopping locally is so important for our communities and our local economies, so I won’t bother getting into that.
I could tell you that small businesses, including retail, restaurants, and bars, are the backbone of our communities, that small businesses employ half of the private working population, but I won’t get into that either. What I do want to tell you is that it is easier to shop local than you think — you don’t have to spend a lot of money, and you don’t even have to do it that often for it to matter.
There’s a movement that started a few years back called the 3/50 Project. The idea is to pick three local businesses you would miss if they were no longer around, and plan to spend a total of $50 in those local shops every month. That’s less than $17 per store, which seems pretty reasonable. We’re not talking about $50 in additional purchases, either — just what you are already consuming each month. You could easily spend that at your hardware store, your bookstore, and your corner grocer.
Here’s the kicker: if only half the working population did this each month, it would generate more than $40 billion in revenue. And, because that revenue is locally spent dollars, it is four times as likely to stay in the community and be spent at other businesses.
So you see, shopping locally doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You can have an impact even with small purchases, even shopping only some of the time. Still, these days I try to be much more deliberate with my purchases. And, my reason for this is really rather selfish. Or, perhaps, self-interested is a better word.
It’s this…I think about “my” three shops and what we would miss if they closed their doors: Where would I take my kids for story time if that shop was closed? Where would we go for an ice cream treat after a fun afternoon playing in the park? Where would I go to work when I need a little quiet time if that coffee shop was gone? Because these local businesses don’t just sell us things – they provide us with gathering places and sense of community. And, that community doesn’t just stay inside the four walls of these shops — it spills out onto the streets.
These local businesses have created a vibrant, lively atmosphere that we enjoy regularly. Yes, we eat at our neighborhood restaurants, drink at our neighborhood bars, hang out at our neighborhood coffee shops, and buy from our neighborhood retailers. But, we also go to First Fridays. We take the kids to the annual Trick or Treat Street (put on by the local businesses). Occasionally we hear music and follow the sound down the street to see what’s going on.
And, there are days when all we do is stroll down Tennyson Street taking in the sights. There are people from all walks of life co-mingling on the street. For better or worse, it is lively and authentic, and it is wonderful to feel a part of this.
And, it’s not just my neighborhood. We have so many of these wonderful neighborhood districts in Denver. You will find similar scenes on South Pearl Street, on South Gaylord Street, on Broadway, in Five Points, in Congress Park…you get the idea. For every neighborhood where local businesses and neighbors co-exist, you’ll find this symbiotic relationship.
When you shop local, you are not just paying for the item you bring home, you are also paying for an experience. And, that experience doesn’t end once you leave the shop. No, it’s so much greater than that.
So, I try to support our local businesses whenever I can — even if it’s not all of the time. And, yes, sometimes I pay more than I would at the big-box stores or Amazon. But, I happily pay that. I think of it as an investment in our community…because what we get back in return is worth so much more.