November 04, 2009

Why Does It Matter?

I’ve been thinking about something lately, so this is going to be one of my serious posts. I’ll try for frivolity next time.

With our recent push to get projects done around the house, I've been shopping a lot lately - or at least a lot more than I usually do. I've been looking for a few special items and have been searching outside my usual range of stores on the edge of town, and I've been shocked to find that many of the businesses that were here two years ago have closed. I know that times are hard for businesses, but it seems that the locally owned and operated businesses in my area have taken the biggest hits while the big box stores still seem to have a lot of customers.

What I see is that we are losing our local character and our local business leaders. The small town atmosphere that drew us here is changing. With population growth has come expansion, big box stores, and smaller chains arranged in shopping centers that look the same everywhere, making one town indistinguishable from the next. I don't want to live in Mayberry (well, I do but with my luck I'd have all Barneys and no Andys); I do want to live in a town that is friendly and interesting.

Many small towns have signs outside town imploring residents to shop their local businesses and keep their money at home, but it goes further than that when big companies take root in small towns. Trading with local business no longer means that money remains in the community. Oh sure, some of it does because the company has to pay local employees and local taxes, but the bulk of the money spent goes to management and banks located outside the city and maybe even outside the state. I could make several points why shopping locally benefits our community, but I don't think I could say it better than this article at Sustainable Connections. Even though smaller stores are often a little more expensive than the big box stores, they also provide customer service that often saves time and money.

So it's simple, just trade with locally owned and operated business and keep all my money in the community, right?. That's what I thought. But it's harder than it sounds. There is a difference in an independent business and a locally owned franchise. All of the profit from an independent business stays in the community. Besides the hefty franchise fee that the local owner paid, a percentage of the profit goes back to the parent company as a royalty. Also, an independent business has the freedom to run their business as they want, to make it a place unlike no other, and to change to meet the needs of the residents. Franchise owners do not have that freedom.

Knowing this, I decided to make a conscious effort to trade with as many locally owned and operated as I could, especially the independents. But heres the rub. How can I tell which ones are company owned and which ones are a locally owned franchise? I called the local chamber of commerce for a list of local businesses but it doesn't have such a list, and other than doing a search for each business online, I really didn't have a way to tell anything about it. It's a little easier to spot the independently owned business because they still have a unique look.

I'm going to start shopping more outside my comfort zone and ask about the operation at every store until I get to know my town again. I'd love to hear from any of you who have already made the decision to support your locally owned and operated businesses.

Until next time, may you have blessings and community,


  1. Hey Marti,

    I don't do a lot of buying other than food but 90% of what I buy is not only from an independantly owned local store but the produce/meats/products themselves are also local. I agree that it is better for the town in terms of developing/maintaining local character and the multiplier effect of keeping $ local. I recently moved out of a national bank and into a local credit union for this reason; all deposits stay local, are loaned out locally and none of the CU's profit goes to shareholders(because there aren't any!)

    You are doing a good thing here!



  2. You said it all perfectly!
    Read about the 3/50 project. You'll appreciate their mission. Thank you for promoting the independently own shops. I've always loved unique shops and that is a large reason why I have one now. Let's hope more people enjoy them like you!