The “Shop Local” message can be difficult to get across. It can so easily sound like a bunch of small merchants begging and threatening and generally in a snit. No wonder. If I’d never been in retail myself, I might never have thought through all the consequences and ramifications of my shopping choices. But as a retailer for 18 years, I’ve thought about it a lot and about my challenge to get the word out and around in such a way that people will really hear and understand it.
There is also the matter of supporting good causes in the local community. Businesses are asked on a regular basis to contribute. We want to contribute! But we need a fresh perspective on how businesses and nonprofits fit together.
Here’s a statistic a friend gave me a few years back: a dollar spent in our local community will circulate in that community seven times. If you’re like me, you need a story to hang on those numbers. Bearing in mind that my example below can be multiplied almost endlessly, factoring in all local businesses and combinations and directions of the circulating dollar (caveat, caveat, caveat), for starters, picture this:
(1) You buy a book from Dog Ears Books.
(2) I buy lunch from the Garage Bar & Grill.
(3) Bruce (owner of BB&G) buys groceries for his restaurant at Tom's Market.
(4) A Tom's cashier receives a paycheck.
(5) The cashier patronizes Dolls and More (another Northport retail business).
(6) Sally (owner of Dolls & More) and Bill Coohon keep their boat at the village marina.
(7) The marina provides summer jobs for young people.
In this 7-step example, not only do dollars fly all over town but they also end up in the hands of kids working at the marina. Note that Sally Coohon, besides being a business owner, is also president of the Board of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Association and volunteers many hours a year for that cause. Also, recall that Tom’s Market supports the Northport Promise (scholarship program) through 1% receipt redemption donations.
Different examples would involve different kinds of jobs, different nonprofit organizations, different groups of volunteers, and you may want to play around with examples of your own—if you live somewhere else, try out a few for your own community—but it should become clear almost immediately that shopping local makes a difference. If that dollar hadn’t been spent here in town but sent out of state—fill in the rest of the sentence yourself.
There will always be products and services not locally available, and we all send taxes to Lansing and Washington. Our village is not an island. Still, the American Booksellers Association has come up with another statistic, which is that of $100 spent at a local independent bookstore, $68 remains in the community. That is really pretty amazing, isn’t it? You can spend $100 in such a way that most of it stays in town, or you can send the $100 out of town and hope a dollar or two makes the return trip somehow, someday....
Keeping dollars local means keeping and creating local jobs. I used to think my business didn’t provide jobs, since I have no paid employees, but then I looked closer and saw that:
(I) I regularly buy supplies for my business at Tom's Market, Northport Ace Hardware, the Filling Station and Dolls and More, all local businesses.
(2) I have used both David Chrobak and Bruce Viger (local business people) as caterers on more than one occasion.
(3) When Dog Ears Books moved from 102 Nagonaba to 106 Waukazoo, local carpenter Mark Voight built all my new bookcases.
(4) My website was designed by village residents Tom and Deb Wetherbee.
(5) I have advertised for years in the Leelanau Enterprise, our county newspaper.
(6) I bank locally, shop locally, buy gas locally--all because my business is in town.
The bottom line is that the very existence of my business in town indirectly helps keep other people working. Every business in town creates jobs, directly or indirectly.
All of this was on my mind when a local committee called “Best for Kids” asked if I would participate again this year in their holiday bake sale and bazaar on the first Saturday in December, I said I would, of course, but that I would also like to discuss with them some kind of year-round way my business could contribute to the Leelanau Children’s Center, their benevolent focus. Invited to speak to the group at their next meeting, I shared with them the statistics, example and list above, emphasizing that local businesses and nonprofit organizations are inextricably intertwined, that community support therefore has to include support for local businesses, that creating and keeping jobs in our community strengthens the community for everyone, especially families with young children, and is therefore very much what’s “best for kids,” and that—phew! finally!—therefore I wanted to propose a more comprehensive program.
And so a new partnership was born. Read more about it here.