Monday, December 5, 2011

Shop Local, Shop Unique

In our area of Southwest Virginia, we have been hit hard by losses to manufacturing and population, an unhealthy obsession with chain stores, and minimal appreciation of historic buildings. All of that has combined to kill off downtown areas that were once thriving, leaving many empty storefronts. Many of our communities are beginning work to reverse that trend with the help of federal and state programs like transportation funding for downtown revitalization, CDBG funds, historic tax credits for building restoration, and tourism initiatives like 'Round the Mountain and the Crooked Road that highlight our local heritage artisans and musicians.  Many of our communities are still a long way from being destinations for tourists, but there are some specialty shops and restaurants that are drawing visitors for an afternoon.  

We're trying this holiday season to shop locally where possible to help encourage more local businesses in our area and put more money back into our local economy.  It might cost a little more, but the gifts we're buying are unique and better quality than those we find at the big boxes and the atmosphere is much more jolly, which is definitely worth the extra investment to us.  Here's our shopping plan:
  1.  Shop Locally-Owned.  Shop the unique shops.  We visited an alpaca farm, an Amish store, and an old and newly restored mercantile this weekend.  We met the owners of each of those businesses who were more than happy to chat with us, find out where we were from, and answer any questions we had.  We know exactly where (and to whom) our money went.  Can't really say that about the big box store, can you?
  2. Shop Hand-Made.  How about a gift with a little imagination?  Go hand-made!  In our area, 'Round the Mountain provides lots of options to find beautiful, unique, and well-made gifts from local artisans.  Don't feel like leaving home to shop?  Look around on the Etsy website to find all kinds of hand-made items that you've never even thought of, but that might be the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend.  And while you may purchase something at Etsy from an artist or crafter in California or France, it's still the same principle: you're shopping a small, locally-owned business so you know exactly where your money is going.
  3. Shop Made In USA.  And when we find ourselves at the big box store with just a day left until Christmas?  We'll look for the "Made in USA" label.  And vow to shop earlier next year.

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