Sold on Shopping Local

on Mar 17th, 2011 | in Editorial | 2 Comments

The days of the general store on the corner are over. I wish I had fond memories to share of the times when mom and pop greeted you as you walked in and when you could buy a hammer, an ice cream cone and a carton of eggs all at the same tiny shop; unfortunately, those times were gone before I was born. I’ve grown up shopping in big box stores to buy items mass-produced overseas. The wind never blows the same way too long, though – consumers across the world have started to shift their habits in a movement called Shop Local. For the past few months, I’ve worked to support this movement and be mindful about shopping locally.

Dollars and Jobs for Your Community

The idea behind the Shop Local movement is for shoppers’ dollars to stay in their local community, helping fund local services like police and fire departments, parks and recreation areas, street improvements and schools. Buying items made locally adds to the job base of the community and supports local businesses. Those businesses, in return, give more money back to the community than big box stores; supporting little league baseball teams, school clubs and organizations, and other youth activities.

Reduce Pollution and Save Gas

In the throes of shopping before Christmas last year, I realized that the UPS and FedEx delivery people were visiting my house more than my friends and family. It got me thinking about all the fuel required to deliver the items that I purchased on-line. I will admit that I’m spoiled (and lazy)! I’m used to being able to find exactly what I want with just a few clicks of my computer mouse.  I didn’t take many trips to shops in town this holiday season; I hit a few craft fairs but mostly relied on Amazon wish lists to buy gifts for friends and family. Curious about the ramifications of on-line shopping, I researched and found that a large cargo jet flies at 500 mph and burns 5000 pounds of fuel per hour – which in turn produces 31 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile. Think of the fuel that could be saved and the emissions that could be reduced if everyone were willing to make an effort to shop locally.

Find What You Need

One Sunday afternoon after brunch, I hit the local bead and craft stores to find several items I needed for projects I have been working on. I was excited to go shopping. The first bead store I visited had an amazing array of beautiful beads and jewelry making supplies including pendants made in my state! The enthusiastic employee behind the counter even pointed the local pendants out to me. Of course I had to purchase some of these fine items (just to help out the local economy of course). I also found spectacular beads for custom necklaces I’m making that would’ve been difficult to find on the internet – largely because I didn’t know they existed. What a wonderful thing it was to browse around and be able to pick up items and hold them in my hands. I loved it. I asked the young lady working the shop that day if she had the ultra-fine beading needles I needed. We couldn’t find them in the store and she said “You may need to look on the internet for those.”  What happened to the good ol’ days when the mercantile would order you what you needed?

Affordable Prices

The second store I stopped in also had a good selection of beads and findings. The first thing I noticed was higher prices than I was used to seeing on-line. I did some math in my head (not an easy task for me) and realized that I might be paying a bit more for the item than I would on the internet, but without shipping costs most of the prices evened out. I found it so appealing to be able to actually see and feel the items in the store. I gladly paid the additional pennies for the experience. It sure beats squinting at the computer monitor and poring through descriptions to find the item that I wanted.

Develop Relationships

What impressed me most about the second store was the help that the store owner and employees gave to the customers. It was not exactly a moment from Cheers when people arrived at the shop, but several people entered the shop while I was there to ask for help in choosing the right beads, charms, hardware and findings for their jewelry or creations.  A table of ladies worked away on necklaces that they were being taught to make by the shop owner. I felt like I could come back if I needed help and find someone eager to lend a hand. This bead store did a great job of advertising upcoming classes and displaying work that customers could learn to make. I may just have to sign up for one, or four!

In the End

And if you are curious about those beading needles I was looking for–it turns out that they are pretty elusive to find, even on the internet. I learned that they are Japanese beading needles and only a handful of places sell them and a fewer number of companies manufacture them.  The moral of this story is that you will not be able to find everything you want locally, but giving local stores a chance will help the community and you might just be surprised how fun it is. Etsy also offers a way for customers to shop locally on-line for handmade goods – just look for the “Shop Local” link on the front page. Once you feel comfortable with the Shop Local movement, you can explore the Eat Local movement – now that’s what I am talking about!

Learn to Shop Local

Shopping local is certainly easy to do just by driving around town, but there are other resources available to help you find great local treasures. LocalHarvest can help locate a community-supported farm for fresh produce, honey, eggs and other farm items. IndieBound can point you in the direction of local independent book stores. Many local independent business alliances can be found on AMIBA.

National resources are scarce, but searching for local ones can turn up a gold mine of opportunities to shop local.

Resources for Northern Colorado

Learn about upcoming events, current projects, specials and resources by visiting Be Local Northern Colorado.

Learn more about the Shop Fort Collins First campaign.

Search and connect with thousands of locally owned businesses near you at ColoradoLocalFirst.com.

Use barter tokens and benefit a local charity of your choice! Learn more about Northern Colorado Community Barter.

Cover image by Umberto Brayj on Flickr.
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2 Responses

  1. Liz Davidson says:

    Hi Brittany,
    I loved reading your article about shopping locally. I never knew there was so much talent in Fort Collins, how cool. Your website looks great.
    Liz

  2. Fernanda says:

    Hello Brittany,

    I noticed your link to Northern Colorado Community Barter this morning and wanted to thank you for it. I’d also love to meet you and see if we can work together–perhaps you’d be willing to offer some of your crafts or some beading classes in exchange for silver barter tokens. Drop me a line and let’s do lunch–locally of course 🙂

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