Thursday, September 6, 2007

Homeward Bound

Community is now the hot commodity.

Many people in the Lansing area are gearing up for the Lansing Localvores Eat Local food challenge (September 8-15). Now local business owners are getting into the act, hoping to remind the community to shop local.

Capitol Area Local First (CALF) is a growing local business coalition whose goal is to encourage consumers to shop at locally-owned businesses and keep dollars spent within the community. The statistics here are staggering. Whereas shopping at a locally owned business keeps $73 of every $100 in the community, shopping at chain stores or other non-locally owned businesses keeps only $43 of every $100 in the community. If there is one thing everyone agrees on, it is that these are difficult economic times in Michigan. It makes a lot of sense to keep as many dollars as possible here in our own community.

But this isn't just a Lansing-based idea. Several cities throughout Michigan have begun to recognize and promote the importance of locally-owned businesses. Regional websites are in place for locations throughout the state, including Grand Rapids and Western Michigan, Washtenaw County and Traverse City. Thinking even bigger? Check out the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). The point is, no matter where you live in this great state of Michigan, there are locally owned shops and restaurants eager to serve you and anxious to play a vital role in the community where they do business.

Investing in locally owned businesses strengthens community bonds. Here in East Lansing there are many locally owned stores and restaurants, and it isn't unusual to see the owners themselves working the counters and greeting guests. A personal connection is so much better than the perfunctory recitation of "Welcome to GlobalShopMartPriceBusters!" muttered over and over again under blinding fluorescent lights to a Muzak soundtrack as a shopping cart is shoved in your gut. Locally owned businesses mean real people you have an opportunity to meet and get to know. I'm much more willing to pay a little more for my merchandise for that kind of one-on-one experience.

The list of CALF members is impressive and growing rapidly. If you're not familiar with some of these fine places, consider attending their kickoff campaign, which happens to tie in quite nicely with the Lansing Localvores Eat Local Food Challenge. According to CALF's press release:

A kickoff event will be held at Dublin Square in downtown East Lansing, 327 Abbott Road, from 4pm-7pm. The community is invited to attend this event and meet local business owners and supporters, and discover why locally-owned, independent businesses are key components of regional vitality and livability. Enjoy locally-grown food and sample local beers and wines. A minimum $10 donation is required.

Stop by, meet the real people behind the store fronts and see what they have to offer. Sure, GlobalShopMartPriceBusters might be a behemoth to be reckoned with, but nothing beats the charm, uniqueness and hospitality of a locally owned business.

And your gut will be shopping-cart free.

Pass the locally-prepared waffles.

1 comment:

Joey said...

I love shopping locally. I like it when I walk into a local store, and they greet me by my name, and usually know exactly what I want. At the same time, I make enough money to shop locally. Shopping locally often means higher prices - not always, but most of the time.

For folks who can't afford to always shop locally, WalMart and the like may not be the most enjoyable option, but enjoyment is often placed on the back burner for affordability. Whether any of us like it or not, WalMart is a great, inexpensive place to get groceries, toilet paper, and many other necessities of life.

So I agree with you, shopping locally is great, but we also need to keep in mind that the WalMarts of the world are important to the less fortunate among us.

Thanks! :)