Being a Localist: Invest in Your Community by Shopping Local
Nestled in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a day dedicated to shopping local which is known as Small Business Saturday. Taking this holiday shopping idea and extending it to a year-round habit is a buying decision that reaps big rewards for all involved.
One of the best reasons to shop local is the immediate economic impact that it has on a community. Carrie Rollwagen (www.carrierollwagen.com) is the author of The Localist, a non-fiction book about her experiences buying local in Birmingham, AL. She says “buying local has a huge impact on the economic health of a community. The first thing that got me interested was learning that for every $10 we spend locally, somewhere between $4-7 of that circulates back in our local communities.” National chain stores, commonly called “big box” stores have an important role in our communities through the jobs they provide, and that can’t be forgotten. However, only $1-3 of every $10 spent there will come back to the community. When more money stays local, then schools, hospitals, roads, parks, etc all have a better chance to thrive.
There are also valid emotional reasons for shopping local. Rollwagen shares that “There are a lot of touchy-feely reasons I like about buying locally. Once I got used to being more creative in finding local stores, shopping became more relaxing and fun, and I made real connections with a lot of the staff members and shop keepers, so I wasactually getting to know more people in my community — this was an unexpectedly great way for me to network in my community and has created great connections and friendships for me.” Plus, clustering local shops can raise the property values of surrounding neighborhoods or rescue neighborhoods that seem to be on the verge of collapsing. Fondren District is a great example of how creating a local shopping environment can uplift a neighborhood and provide economic opportunities for a variety of businesses.
Knowing where to go to shop local is the first step in the process. Rollwagen explains that a local store is “any shop that’s owned by an individual in the community (or in your state).” Franchises are trickier – they are national chains that are individually and locally owned. So, take those on a case by case basis when making decisions about where to shop. Shopping local also means shopping with local farmers, through farmers’ markets and various farm-run websites. Locally owned restaurants and coffee houses are also easy (and delicious!) ways to keep dollars in the local community. Locally owned clothing boutiques make fashion part of the local movement as well. And charity events like Mistletoe Marketplace include a great collection of local vendors, while the money raised on ticket sales directly benefits the local community.
Made In Mississippi products are a big part of the shopping local experience. Ridgeland resident Cindi Bryant Brown owns The Cupboard, in Clinton, and says that an average of around 25% of her store inventory includes Mississippi made items. She says that “Mississippi has a wealth of talented, creative people whose creations are recognized and desired around the world.” It makes sense for stores to stock these items and for shoppers to choose them first whenever possible. Locally owned gift shops are great sources for Mississippi made items, but so are places like the Mississippi Craft Center, Natchez Trace Visitors Center and local art galleries. Pop-Up Galleries like the Priced To Move show in Jackson are full of creations from a huge variety of Mississippi artists and craftsmen. Farmers Markets are great places to get not only local food, but also great Mississippi made gifts.
Shopping Local is a real movement that affects the whole community in a wonderfully positive way. Rollwagen advises those who want to start being a localist “to shop local-ish – just shift a few of your buying patterns to local shops and add more in as you go. Small choices multiplied over time have a much bigger effect.” Trying to go cold turkey with local shopping might be overwhelming and could result in giving up completely. So start small when you shop small and have a great time getting to know your local store owners. Being an integral part of improving your community can really be a lot of fun!
Leah O’Gwynn Kackley lives in the Rez/Fannin area with her husband Jason and their three kiddos. Her list of favorite local stores just seems to grow every time she goes into a new one.