The “Shop Local” slogan is slapped on bumper stickers and business doors in the hopes that it penetrates consumers’ conscience, especially this time of year. And hopefully, that motivation is maintained the entire year. Purchases become a personal and political statement. Each penny spent becomes a tangible declaration of our values with immediate rewards.
People usually give two main reasons for purchasing from big box stores. The first is low prices, and the second is convenience. We compromise our ideals to save a dollar or two. We trade our privacy and personal data for convenience. We exchange our habits and idiosyncrasies as currency to buy mass-produced items lost in the depths of homogeneity.
When you shop locally, you know where that money is going. It returns to the neighborhood where the store’s employees live. You can be reassured of how the owners are reintroducing that money into the community because the results are within arm’s reach. Abstracts crumble and the word “investment” has a deeper meaning as flourishing neighborhoods recycle your original dollar.
The American Independent Business Alliance (amiba.net) explains three impacts of our spending: direct, indirect and induced. Direct impact refers to the business’ spending in the local economy to stay in operation. As those dollars recirculate, they have an indirect impact. Finally, induced impact refers to employee and business owner spending in the local economy.
New England has a unique landscape and history and we have to support it so it can become a beacon for others. Think of the idyllic shops of Wickford at the Marina on Brown Street. Think of Thames St and Broadway cradling the Bay in Newport or in Jamestown. Bristol and Main St in Warren are perfect examples of our amazingly unique Rhode Island culture.
Wayland Square offers clothing and knick-knack shops and two (2!) independent bookstores, Books on the Square and Paper Nautilus. Wickendon – anchored by Nostalgia at the Brook Street end – offers an entire hillside of restaurants and stores that offer classic New England craftsmanship and personality. Plus, Art Freek or Rock Star let you put some local art on yourself!
Hope Street, right in the middle of the East Side, is bursting with options. You could help someone experience the Hope Street nightlife by giving them a gift certificate, or you could find a unique gift at Frog and Toad or Little Rhody, both of which are full of items made by local artists. Also check out Studio Hop or Stock, or nurture the natural curiosity of the little ones in your life with a gift from Henry Bear’s Park.
Hit the shops on Downcity’s Westminster Street or stroll under the Christmas lights and view the grandeur of the Grace Episcopal Church as you hit Cellar Stories (more books!). The West Side of Westminster has White Electric, October, Torchbearer and Nice Slice. Maybe head up College Hill to see Thayer Street and grab lunch before you meander in and out of Brown Bookstore, Pleasant Surprise, Denali or Spectrum.
If you give gifts this season, make the act special. Don’t succumb to the bloated routine, absent of thought or love, of selecting a plastic product to fulfill holiday obligations. Instead, purchase something local and exponentially increase your act of giving.