Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shopping Locally

I'm happy to say that (with the exception of two gifts) I purchased all of my Christmas gifts from local Summit County businesses this year. I admit that I regularly and gleefully shop at Target, I've been known to patronize WalMart from time to time, and I do my grocery shopping at City Market. So, my local shopping wasn't part of a mission to completely boycott all chain stores. It just happened naturally. Then, after that first purchase, I decided to be intentional about the rest of my shopping. When faced with the choice of buying a book at Borders or from Weber's Books and Drawing, I chose the latter.

The attention and service I received from the smaller stores was remarkable! The sales clerks were knowledgeable and helpful, often because they were the owner(s) of the business. Because each store specialized in a particular type of product, the sales people really knew their stuff. I could walk into a store, tell the employee what I was looking for, and he or she would direct me right to it. I realize these are obvious statements, but I think they're worth noting.

Growing up in the suburbs didn't provide as many opportunities to shop at small local stores. Perhaps my habits continued that way, just because I was familiar with it. I'm realizing the charm of shopping locally, though. The cost of living is high in this county. Plus, it's very expensive to own one's own business. Much of the vitality of small businesses depends on the tourism factor, which has high up and down swings throughout the year. As a local, I have the opportunity to support some of these businesses on a regular basis, which I think would be a responsible action to take as someone who cares about this community.

I think one of the reasons that I hesitated from going to local stores, versus Target or WalMart, is because of one of the factors I've already stated. The cost of living is high in this county. I figured that it would be cheaper to shop at a "big box store." However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't necessarily the case. At Affordable Music the clerk rounded down the price of my purchase and factored the tax into the sticker price. At Swan Mountain Christmas, the owner gave me a 10% discount when I agreed to buy a certain quantity of items. Local proprietors have the flexibility to work with the customer in order to ensure the sale.

After I decided to make my purchases at area businesses, I started hearing commercials for SIBA (Summit Independent Business Association) on the local radio station. Their mission is impressive, and organizations like this make me proud to live in this community. I checked out their "Our Partners" page and I was pleased to realize that I have shopped at several businesses on the list. The variety of shops in this county provides a unique character to this place I now call home. I hope it stays that way. To support that end, I realize that I need to do my part by putting my money where my mouth is.

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