How to (and Why to) Buy Local for the Holidays
By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
It pretty much goes: “Locally-owned: good! Big corporation: bad! Support your community! Keep your money where you make your money!” But really, when it comes down to it, and the holiday-buying time crunch is on, and you can’t leave work early, the kids still need their costumes for the pageant, your mother-in-law is “going to be just a few days early, but don’t worry about her” and the car picks NOW to need new break pads and rotors, are you going to be thinking about how to go about your errands in a socially-conscious manner, or are you going to aim for the one-stop-discount-shop meccas like Target and Walmart? Everyone is watching their pennies with a hawk-like vigilance these days, and free-time seems to be evaporating faster than you can chug your first cup of coffee in the morning. So, aside from guilt, you want me to give you a good reason you should take the time and effort to buy local this holiday season? I’ll give you three.
1. Buying local can actually save you money.
If you can’t help but wonder, “What’s in it for me?” let me give you an easy one right off the bat: money. Those glossy ads from big companies that get stuffed in your mailbox with mounting intensity as the holidays approach? They may tout big savings, but they’re not telling you what it costs to get there.
Gery L. Deer is the owner and creative director of GLD Enterprises, a copywriting, marketing, and consulting firm, and he sees first-hand the difference buying locally makes to his clients and the resulting effect on their community. “What we hear all the time is people saying, ‘We want to support the community.’ And that’s great, but a lot of times they don’t understand why. So the first thing to do is help people understand what happens when you buy local, because they figure it’s going to cost too much,” Deer said. He illustrated with an example: “The guy down the street with the local grocery store, his carton of milk is $4 and Walmart is $2. If you’re watching every penny, you’re going to go to Walmart. But you don’t realize that you’re spending an extra how much money on gas to go there and back, because they’re typically not in your backyard, you have to drive a little ways, plus the amount of time that you’re spending. And that money will leave the area. You’ve got to do a little bit of research, and if you’re willing to do that and get started figuring out where you spend your money, you might end up finding out in the long run you spend a lot less.”
We all know that exchanging gifts around the holidays is meant to spread joy and express our gratitude for those we care about. We also know we need to spend smart so that these times of good tidings don’t put us in the red. “People are scared. They need to spend their money wisely, and they’re terrified,” said Deer. Think about all of the hours and resources it takes to get to and through those clogged, crushing crowds at the closest superstore. Save yourself both time and money and consider local alternatives.
2. The ripple effect you start can save us from being at the whim of Wall Street.
The choices you make as a consumer can change more about your community than how many local businesses line your streets. Starting as small as choosing to go to a local garage to have your oil changed as opposed to a national chain can have far-reaching effects.
Deer compares our local economy to a circulatory system, making the money the blood of the process. “When your circulatory system is working well, the body is very healthy. We do well, we feel better, the blood is taking the nutrients to the different parts of the body. The economy works very much the same way. The longer that money stays in the local region, the more of a benefit it has. The stronger that economic base stays,” explained Deer.
And what are the benefits of having a strong, local economic base? “Once that money starts circulating, you see things like property values going up. When property values go up, school district values go up. Home values and commercial real estate values go up. Taxes then don’t necessarily get cut, but they drop because it means that as the economy gets better and income increases, the tax base doesn’t have to keep adding more levees because now they’re getting more money in because people are earning more and businesses are doing better. They don’t have to keep re-taxing you to stay afloat. This is like a domino effect backwards,” said Deer.
Everyone must take an interest and get involved if we are going to make this happen.
“This whole concept of ‘If we’re going to take care of ourselves,’ we’ve got to do it at the ground level,” said Deer. “If everyone would participate, that base would be so solid, that nothing that happens on Wall Street could shake us.”
Business owners in the Miami Valley are already in. Local business owner Lisa Wolters of Yellow Springs Brewery has a “sincere belief in the spirit of local community in a world where corporate conglomerates too often determine our tastes.”
“It takes a lot of educating and understanding that local buying helps everyone,” said Tabitha Guidone, owner and artist at Decoy Art Studio and Boutique in Beavercreek, of the comprehensive effects that buying local has on her community.
We can do this! There’s over a million of us Daytonians! We can take the power back from Wall Street and grow our community with all the strength and talent we have here at home.
3. Unrivaled service and guaranteed products.
Aside from money and empowerment, what else could you hope to get from buying locally this holiday season? How about stuff that works right, sold to you by people who know what the hell they’re talking about.
Let’s say you’re going to go classic for your kid this year and want to see their face light up when they spot a new bike waiting for them under the proverbial tree. Sure, you could pick up the cheapest one off the rack at Kmart, pointed out to you by the sales associate who couldn’t figure out how to work his walkie talkie. But isn’t Little Jimmy’s safety and happiness worth a little more that?
“Our bikes will be assembled properly, come with a lifetime warranty on the frame, one to five year warranty on the parts, free check-up,” said Doug Kremer of K&G Bike Shop with stores in Kettering, Centerville, and Xenia. “I’ve seen people bring in bikes from those other stores. We wouldn’t be in business if we sent bikes out like that. Independent shops can’t do that. We take care of our customers.”
K&G as been in business since 1973, and they’ve amassed a staff full of passion, knowledge, and experience. “We’ve got good people,” said Kremer. “Some have been with us since day one. We got people with 30 plus years experience at every store. Something can’t be fixed, we’ll find one of the guys who’s been here long enough and get it done.” Trustworthy, dependable, and more years of know-how than that sales associate at Kmart had candles on his last birthday cake. I’d say there’s some value in that.
“The people get to know you, they know your patterns, they know your interests, and you have a person you can talk to,” said Deer of the benefits of personable and invested staff. “If we would go back to that, I think we would do a lot better. When there’s person-to-person contact, then those small businesses can actually stay afloat and grow a little bit more.”
Now that we know some of the “whys”, let’s look at some of the “hows” of buying local in Dayton.
“Everything has an alternative,” said Deer. “Look at where all your money is going, and the different places that you’re spending it, and then look, whether it’s Google or the phonebook or the newspaper or wherever you happen to look, go and see if there’s a local alternative and cross compare those pricings a little bit. And don’t just price shop; look at the value that you get for it. This is very personal. You got to take personal responsibility. No one is going to do this for you.”
I guess we can’t do it for you, but see if we can’t make it a little easier. Here are just a few examples of local alternatives you could consider for your holiday shopping:
1. Instead of getting a gift basket at Meijer for your beer-loving friend, take a look at what local breweries like Yellow Springs Brewery or Dayton Beer Company in Kettering have to offer. “Whether it’s art, food, or beer, knowing who made it and where it’s made just makes the product better,” said Lisa Wolters of Yellow Springs Brewery. “We’re happy to be doing our bit to empower and refresh the local community.”
“Think Dayton, Drink Dayton” is Dayton Beer Company’s motto. “It’s important to support your community,” said Peter Hilgeman, operating manager and brewer, who will have a special winter ale and growlers available this December.
2. Looking for a nice leather bag or accessory for a loved one? Instead of Wilson’s Leather at the mall, take a look at Vintageliz. “I love that each piece is unique and one of a kind. I love that my heart and soul is created into something someone can wear and use each day. I am a big believer in buying handmade, buying local!” exclaimed owner Liz Stutzman.
3. Have an art lover on your list? Instead of ordering prints off of Amazon, take a look at what Clash Consignments in the Oregon District may have to offer from artists of the local variety. “I wanted somewhere to display my work,” said owner Mary Kathryn Burnside. “I want other artists to have that, too.
4. Just need to get some ideas for your ever-growing list of family and friends? Instead of wandering around paved paradises for hours on end, stop in to Eclectic Essentials in downtown Dayton where they have a little bit of everything. “I have lived in Dayton for 20 years,” said owner Estevan Loya. “I remember when I first moved here thinking how Dayton was truly the heart of it all. Now with the loss of so many companies in the Dayton Area I believe it is vital to support local small businesses. We have many neat and unique shops here in the Oregon District and in the Dayton area. By shopping small businesses not only are you supporting your neighbor, you are saying I love Dayton and support our entrepreneurial spirits.”
These are just a few examples of the alternatives to national chains available here in Dayton. Make it a challenge, make it a goal, shoot, make it a GAME (games are fun, remember) to see how many local alternatives you can find this holiday season and the next. And share your knowledge! Sharing is fun, too. Happy holidays!
Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Buying Guide Cheat Sheet
Cannery Art and Design Center
Crop Circle Clay
Decoy Art Boutique & Studio
Life in Letters
Cake, Hope, and Love
Cherry House Café
Desserts by Ann K.
Eat Food for Life Farm
Ele’ Cake Co.
Beer, Wine and Spirits
Arrow Wine & Spirits
The Dayton Beer Company
Emporium Wines and the Underdog Café
Winds Café Wine Cellar
The Wine Gallery
Yellow Springs Brewery
K&G Bike Center
Bonnett’s Book Store
Dark Star Books
Jay and Mary’s Book Center
Super-Fly Comics & Games
Coffee, Candy, and Gift Baskets
Friesinger’s Fine Chocolates
Robert Rothschild Farm
Un Mundo Café
Winan’s Fine Chocolates & Coffees
Clothing and Accessories
La Alpaca Place
Running with Scissors Creative Collective
Centerville Coin & Jewelry Connection
Rita Caz Jewelry Studio & Gallery
Soaps, Candles, and Sundries
A Greener You
Living Simply Soap