In a gesture to small businesses owners and the shop local movement, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been declared Small Business Saturday. It should be Friday and Sunday as well.
The point, after all, is that money spent locally recycles through the local economy. If you buy groceries at Greg’s Meat Market, or the Middlebury Beverage Center next door, grab a slice of pizza at Ramunto’s or have lunch at Fire & Ice Restaurant while your snow tires are put on at County Tire Center (or take any other four or five stores in Bristol, Brandon or Vergennes) the money spent at those businesses will churn several times over, boosting your home town at every stop.
It used to be the factor was that a dollar spent at a local would turn over six more times in the local economy. They now say that for every dollar spent locally, it generates $1.50 in wealth to the town. However you say it, the impact is substantial and the decision to shop locally is paramount to the health of our towns and local businesses.
This is particularly true of the Christmas season when such a large percentage of a store’s retail sales are done over the next four to five weeks. These four weeks, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, can mean the difference between a profitable year or looking at bleaker options. It is, in other words, important to the health of the community that you buy local first.
But put the economics of the question aside for a moment and just consider the experience of shopping at home where the people you meet are your friends and neighbors.
In past years, I’ve made it a conscious effort to buy all my family’s gifts from local stores, and it’s a joy. I park downtown (the Marble Works always has room and it’s a half-block at most to Main Street, or park off Mill Street and walk a half block to Edgewater Gallery and begin shopping there), and then go walk the couple of blocks of Middlebury’s downtown visiting the 30-plus retail stores. Allow ample time for visiting with store clerks, storeowners and friends and neighbors along the way.
If it’s a special Very Merry Middlebury shopping day downtown, the Better Middlebury Partnership will be serving hot chocolate and cider free out of its hut (usually at Cannon Park), and a dozen or so restaurants or delis will be open for soup, sandwiches, coffee, a gourmet meal or relax at John’s cozy tea house in the Marble Works and enjoy the day.
Normally my shopping threshold is somewhere around 20-30 minutes, and that’s on a good day. But if I’m out to buy Christmas gifts and I decide to make it a half-day or so, spending it in Middlebury or Vergennes or Bristol doesn’t seem onerous. Rather it’s a day of running into people you know unexpectedly. You exchange greetings, chat and catch up and part feeling better for being among neighbors.
It’s completely opposite of the big box store experience where you’re rustling through mega-aisles of stuff, surrounded by throngs of folks who are in a panic to finish the chore and get home.
In downtown Montpelier, they’ve come up with the perfect tonic to the Black Friday frenzy. It’s called Flannel Friday. The message couldn’t be more opposite: Slow down. Talk to each other. Meet friends. Enjoy and be merry. Relax.
Avoid the Black Friday panic this year and shop locally.
Support the small businesses in your town, first, and then look to other small businesses in neighboring towns next. And it’s OK to shop online if it’s through a local store: Dakin’s Farm, for example, is local and is terrific to send a taste of Vermont to far away family members.
And here’s one last idea: If you don’t know where to find that perfect gift for your family member, poise the question to the Addison Independent advertising team by emailing your quandary to Christy@addisonindependent.com. Include a little bit about the person, their likes and interests, and she and her team (Pam, Kim, Sarah, Elisa and Anna) will send you several ideas of what you can buy them from local merchants. It’s all about friends helping friends, and about keeping as much as possible within our communities.
Angelo S. Lynn