Bucci's restaurant owners Paul Camardo, Amelia Bucci, and Leslie Julian at their Hollis Street restaurant in Emeryville, which opened (at another location in town) 24 years ago. Stories about Bucci's and other local businesses in town coming soon in The Secret News.
Why should Emeryville support locally-owned businesses?
Shopping is a political act. Where we choose to plunk down our dollars has implications far beyond our own household budgets. Supporting local business helps the local economy and makes our communities stronger.
Locally-owned — what does it mean?
Shopping locally does not mean driving into the parking lot of your nearby big-box mall and going from box to box to do your shopping. Shopping ‘local’ means sticking to the stores that have their roots in your own community…it may be a mom-‘n-pop, one-of-a-kind place of business, or a small local chain that started out small. In any case, we are talking about stores that have local ownership, local management, and are closely attuned to the particular needs of their customers.
Keep your money in your community
According to a study done in 2003 in Austin, Texas by the American Independence Business Alliance, when you spend $100 at a nationwide chain store, only $13 stays in the local economy. But spend that same $100 at a locally owned store and $45 stays to support the local economy. Think about it. It goes beyond the profits, which, of course go to “the headquarters in New York City.” For one thing, independent stores employ their managers and buyers locally, while a chain may have only a low-level manager on site. The fact of more higher-paying jobs per location brings the local stores’ average wages up. And there’s more.
Support an expanding local network
Independent stores source more of their products locally, giving area artisans, farmers and producers more of edge and a chance to market their goods. Locally-owned businesses purchase their supplies and services from local vendors as well, thus spreading the wealth around the community. For example, if a local store wants to expand, it will hire a local contractor who, in turn, employs local workers. Bankers, accountants, lawyers, and window-washers all benefit.
Reduce environmental impact
Purchases from independent stores require less transportation from producer to point-of-sale. Chain stores ship goods to regional warehouses and then turn around and reship to the final destination store, while local stores can cut out pieces of that transportation web. You, the shopper, travel less distance to purchase goods in your own neighborhood, and may be able to bike or walk.
Relish better customer service
Research shows that small business owners focus on high quality customer service to maintain their edge against the chains. Because they are involved in the development and running of their business, they are more likely to be knowledgeable about their field and about the products they sell. The owner of an excellent lighting store in Berkeley told me of the time he spent a half hour explaining the pros and cons of various lighting systems to a couple, only to have the wife say to her husband, “Okay, let’s go buy it at Home Depot.
Make a small change; make a big difference
Local First of Grand Rapids, MI did a study in September of 2008 examining the impact of local business on the western Michigan economy. Their study revealed that a modest change in consumer behavior—merely a 10% shift in buying from chain-stores to independent businesses—would result in 1,600 new jobs, $53 million in wages, and a $137 million economic boon to the area in many sectors, not only retail. Elissa Sangalli Hillary, the executive director, said, “So often, individuals feel overwhelmed and unable to make a difference. The study shows that by choosing to support locally owned business, individuals can help to create and retain jobs in [their] community.”
Local retailers are your friends and neighbors – support them and they will support you and make your neighborhoods more livable. “More independents means more choice, more diversity and a truly unique community,” according to IndieBound, a national movement to support local, independent businesses. It’s worth it to give financial as well as intangible support to local businesses. It’s worth it to spend tax dollars to attract and maintain them. We all will reap the benefits.
(Photo by Scott Donahue)
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