Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Buying local

Last night we watched the documentary Independent America: The Two-Lane Search for Mom & Pop, recommended to me by KateArch1978.
The movie made us think about some things we just hadn't before. For example, we've become more and more diligent about finding locally owned places to dine when we travel, yet it never occurred to us to not stay at the Marriott or Holiday Inn Express, instead searching out a bed and breakfast or local motel.
Over the seven years StfRon and I have been traveling together, we've run across more and more towns like some that Hanson and Heather drove through, with awesome historic downtown districts, all but abandoned for big box stores and chain restaurants near Interstates.
Well over a decade ago, I went to Seattle with some friends and marveled at the coffee shops on every corner. I don't even recall if we saw a Starbucks or knew what one was at the time, but now you can find six locations in Peoria alone.
About six years ago, we laughed on one of our trips after StfRon had to pull over at a Culver's in Wisconsin and ask what the heck a butterburger was. Now you can find one in Peoria, East Peoria and Pekin.
This last trip of ours, we were discouraged to head south, where we thought we would be ensconced in collard greens and fried green tomatoes, only to find location after location of McDonald's, Culver's and McAllister's Deli — home of the sweet tea — which will soon grace our own University Street in front of Schnuck's.
Someone in the documentary commented about shifting just 10% of your spending to local businesses, and what a huge impact it can have. A study was done in San Francisco, and found that this 10% shift could generate $192 million in economic activity and about 1,300 new jobs.
Granted, in central Illinois, the monetary gain would be less, but the impact would still be great.
Driving to work today I was thinking about the 10% local rule. Say you take a chunk of time, like one month, or 30 days. 10% would be only three days out of that 30 day period. So, we're talking about one day a week, considering to make purchases at locally owned businesses, if you purchase things 30 times in a month.
If you just bought your cup of coffee once a month from a locally owned business; had dinner out once a month at a local restaurant; bought that book, magazine or newspaper once a month at a local shop; had your hair cut at a locally owned salon once a month; bought a loaf of bread at a locally owned bakery...there are so many possibilities that could add up to shifting 10% of your business to local places.
It probably wouldn't cost you any more, and could end up saving you money on gas, if your local joint is convenient to work or home.
I find that the cost of not doing this has the potential to be far greater, leading to a loss of stalwart businesses and/or loss of choice in what you can buy, if all that's left is the big boxes and chains.
Actually, I find that over the last few years, I have shifted more than 10% of my spending to local businesses, but I could still make a lot of improvements. Something for me to strive for...


Fraochán said...

Awh - the powerful documentary. I have several in my collection as well...

It was unfortunate that you ran into so many chains in the south. But perhaps that is what you saw, say right off the highway or breezing through town. In all my trips to various parts of the south and southwest - I didn't feel suffocated by the chains. We ate at local joints....

When we went to Italy we did not stay in one chain. We stayed in nice - highly rated family owned villas/hotels. (No hostels - ick!) And when we traveled all over Europe in '95 - I don't really remember ever staying in a chain. I think here in the states....we *look* for them. We can feel reassured they by staying in a Hilton, for example, we can expect a certain level of comfort. Sometimes, I find myself hesitating for staying at mom/pop places because I don't know what to expect. I need to readjust my way of thinking. For our wedding....we didn't want to have our reception/guests stay at a chain....we wanted something *unique*. And I think for the Peoria, and what it (doesn't) has to offer - we did okay.

I would guess the hubby and I spend about 15% - 20% local. I'm not anti-chain (most businesses would love to be at that level...) but we have just found some places we like more then others. Nearly 90% of "going out to eat" (for us) here in M-town.....local. We don't eat at nasty Burger King or Ponderosa. But when we get to Peoria or Bloomington - wow that's a different story. We have some chains we love....some we don't dare step into (BAD experiences)....and some mom and pop places we LOVE and some we STAY away from. Basically I figure by splitting up our spending - we are still helping the local economy when we shop at a national chain grocery store, for example.....the employees are local....the taxes go to the town...etc etc.

That's my 2-cents. Time to eat. lol

Floyd said...

Katie, watching a documentary instead of some cheesy horror movie?

That's unpossible!

Katie said...

Floyd! I like all kinds of movies...I just happen to be entertained by awful horror movies. They are much more entertaining than a lot of the crap comedies as of late (Good Luck Chuck, anyone?).

I am so excited to see that you finally got to see that movie, Jeep! I thought of your blog the entire time I watched it.

I was absolutely blown away by the 10% challenge. I think it is such a great idea and should really be tried by every one. It only helps the community we live in. I see no downside to any of it.

There is also a movement to buy 10% organic as well. And the two go hand-in-hand since much better organic produce can be bought locally in season.

I am going to have to buy that movie to watch again since Sundance is apparently done with it. Between that and Super Size Me, I don't think I will ever eat at a chain again with a clear conscience.

Great post!!

Jeep2000 said...

Ugh, I forgot about Super Size Me!!
By no means am I 100% chain free, nor would I want to be at this point. But I like supporting local businesses and encouraging local flavor.
And I'm so glad that organic is become easier to find close to home!
BTW, cheesy horror movies are the best! Some time between age 16 and 28, though, the true horror movies finally got under my skin. Give me cheesy horror any day!