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Buy Local, How I Support My Community

Over at Get Rich Slowly‘s site, J.D. has a great article today called “Why I Buy Local“.  And as I started to add a comment, I noticed that all the other comments from other readers were pretty as long as a typical blog entry by themselves.  So I decided to add to his work and put in my two cents over here at www.moneyreasons.com

So here is my take:

I live in a small middle class city in the MidWestern region of the Unites States.  We chose to live in such a community because of the charm of the community and the fact that they have an excellent public school system (okay, I confess the school system was a larger element in our choice)!

While within the last few years, a Walmart, Target, Lowes, Starbucks and other big chains have been built, the downtown area of the city still has much of it’s small social and business charms. 

We still have quite few locally (mom and pop) owned restaurants,  farmers, 1 movie theater, 1 drive-in theater, hardware shops, coffee shops, auto shops, antique shops and other charming little places.

Now for how we support our local businesses:

  • For movies, we’ll wait a bit longer and go to the Drive-in Theater which is only a few miles away!  It’s a flat rate per car to get into the Drive-In, so not only are we supporting this great local business, it’s also cheaper than the farther big city theaters. Just for an additional kick, we also invit my wife’s friend and her two kids to go with us.  We usually pay for the car entirely, but even then, it’s cheaper than the other theaters in the bigger cities.  The sound system isn’t the best but the other great aspects make up for this :)
  • In the summer, we go to the local farmer’s market and buy our sweet corn from them!  It’s almost as cheap as the store bought versions, and taste soooo much better!
  • I buy small hardware needs (including sharpening my lawn mower blades) from the local hardware store.  It’s not as big or fancy as Lowes, but it has that Normal Rockwell feel that’s just plain cool!
  • For breakfast, almost every Saturday, we go to this great little mom and pop restaurant!  Everything taste great (eggs, pancakeS, etc), and is cheaper than both Bob Evans and The Cracker Barrel.  Oh sure, it’s not as pretty inside as Bob Evans and The Cracker Barrel, but it’s still has a decent enough decor… and the owner is incredible friendly!  In fact, its my favorite local business, the fool is almost always perfectly prepared (even the cheap coffee)!
  • I confess, I still go to the Starbucks when I am at work (which is out of my city)… but if I’m in town, I go to one of the two cafes that are downtown.  The local cafe shops are just as good, and has a personal feeling that’s hard to beat!  Plus, the one shop (the one I go to the most) has small local bands that play on Thursday nights (only for a few hours)!
  • My wife’s minivan is running oddly, so we took it to our local “around the corner” auto shop.  I’ve had great experiences with the owner in the past, and I’m sure he’ll do right by us again!
  • We also frequent many other local shops, instead of big chains.  We’ve bought stuff at clothing stores, thrift stores, ice cream shops, a root beer stand,  antique stores, a tidbit store, local pizza place (Papa Johns is still our stable though) and other such local shops…

Now I hate to say it, but we also shop at Walmart, Giant Eagle and Target, especially for food products.  Target is just fun… sorry…

So while we are mostly frugal, we do try to keep the local community in business!!!

So my question is…  Do you have any special local business that you support and are incredible proud of? 

We love our Drive-In, and would hate to see it go!!!

-MR

19 Responses to Buy Local, How I Support My Community

  1. There is a corn farm near where I lived a few years ago that has some pretty nice corn, too. As I live in a big city and I’ve moved around a lot, I haven’t become too attached to any one business. I have found a pretty good local bike shop though, so I’ve gone back to them a few times.

    I haven’t been to a drive-in in ages! The prices of movies is getting ridiculous (you’re talking about $40+ for two people if you get snacks and a drink where I live)… wish we had more drive-ins around here, haha.

  2. @Kevin@InvestItWisely
    The prices of movies at a quality movie theater (we went to this one for Avatar) run about almost that high here too! Definitely higher than $30.

    The Drive-In feel like we are taking a trip into the past! It’s pretty cool, but they don’t get many people still, mostly minivan with kids (which is what we are :) ). To get in it’s a flat $16 dollars per car load.

  3. Jin6655321 says:

    Oh, don’t apologize, Target IS very fun! I wouldn’t feel bad about shopping at national chain stores. The way I see it, all businesses are local businesses since they provide local jobs.

    I read JD’s article and he makes some valid points. My parents are local business owners and they believe that nothing beats being your own boss. I, however, work as a manager for a national retailer.

    Honestly, even though my parents are small business owners, I would have to say that big businesses are MUCH better employers. They offer more benefits, more options, better safety and more (job) security.

    As a consumer I choose the charm and uniqueness of local businesses whenever possible (and financially feasible). As someone in the retail field, I would NEVER work for a small business.

  4. @Jin6655321
    Great points.

    One of the problems with a national retailer is that they bring more traffic to a small city like mine. My wife and I have noticed that the crime report in the newspaper has increased dramatically. And it is always at a national retail chain… and it isn’t Target ;)

    Still, we shop at those national retail chains too, it’s just too convenient not to! I guess it’s a balance here too!

  5. Our Drive-In is gone, as are most the mom-and-pop places. Therefore, I have no choice to shop at Target and other chain stores.

    There is one small hardware store that I go to that is locally owned. I also go to a produce stand when it is open. I envy the small-town feel of where you live.

  6. fill out to census accurately each time you get a chance – this results in the right amount of funding for your local community. use the libraries and other free public services. this shows utility and utility is good support for next year’s budget – trust me, you will help your community out tremendously. and – do not forget to vote in local elections. this too has several $$$ implications :)

  7. @Everyday Tips
    We live in a satellite city, so about 15 minutes away, we can go to a bigger city for need that our smaller city doesn’t have.

    However, our satellite city has some big highways going through them. So some of the larger chains looking to expand there presence are targeting out little city. So now we have Walmart, Target, Kohls, Giant Eagle, Lowes, Home Depot,Applebees, etc… It’s nice having the large stores, but I fear for the small business in our city too.

    In many ways I feel that my little city’s home town community is on it’s last leg… I’ll do my part, but I hope other in the community will too.

  8. @Sunil from The Extra Money Blog
    Good point!

    I didn’t even realize that fact about the census until this last go around! Of course, we filled it out once it came…

  9. We shop at both – “local” and chains.

    For groceries, we don’t even have a choice – there is Kroger, HEB, and Walmart. Period.

    For theaters, we now have discovered a drive-in, which was a lot of fun. We also go to the family-owned $1.50 theater sometimes. For date nights when it’s just too hot for the drive-in, we go to Movie Tavern nearby which is still cheaper than AMC (I abhor AMC).

    For food, we eat at a few chains once in a while, but our favorite restuarants are My Pizzeria, Catfish Cafe, and China Wok (family-owned chain in Houston). Texas Wild Wings is pretty good too.

    For fun, I enjoy the Bingo hall across the street that a little family just bought and run themselves. Potlucks and boardgaming at friends’ houses are pretty much my only other non-home entertainment.

    So, I’m a tweeny – I shop both and enjoy the mom and pop feel. :-)

  10. @Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
    Sounds like a pretty sweet community!

    We have Buellers, Giant Eagle, Walmart and Target as options for food (Target doesn’t have many options though), but no local grocery stores…

    When we eat out, we usually go to both too. Breakfast is Alexandras (great food, mentioned above), lunch is Marias (Italian, but mainly a family owned pizza joint), and for dinner, House of Human (great family owned chinese restaurant), and few sushi places…

    I think the restaurants will be okay, but some of the other local businesses are probably in trouble… It’s just a matter of time…

    I hope the Drive-In survives… I wish there was some way to promote it… It would be horrible if it went away…

  11. Sandy L says:

    When I first moved to my town, it was almost all mom and pop stores. Most big box stores were an hour away.

    There were some that were great and I still use, but there were others that were just pure taking advantage and I was relieved when the box store moved in. Charging 50% more for an item was just wrong and I would drive an hour out of my way out of principal. I didn’t want to feel like I was being forced to buy from the only game in town.

    I like a mix of both. I love all my local restaurants and entertainment venues. I give them tons of my business.

    My personal motto is that I will pay more for a differentiated or superior quality product and/or experience. I’m not going to pay more for a commodity just to support the little guy.

    Every store has the opportunity to differentiate themselves and the customer experience. I buy my diapers at Walmart but my raw honey comes from the farmer’s market at 3x the price of the walmart brand.

    I pay more for sheetrock and plywood, because the lumberyard delivers for free.

    I pay more for a pizza because they use organic ingredients.

    I pay more for a movie because it’s clean and has nice seating.

    I like the mix we have now. I’d be sad if my town were all chains, but I do support the ones I like because I want them to stick around.

  12. @Sandy L
    I think we all do support both. But I think the entire neighborhood goes to pot when there are vacant building downtown. There is nothing cute about that…

    Since my grandparent owned a small store I understand why the merchandise cost more at little shops (economies of scale and all…), but a 50% markup for the same product that is at walmart is pretty steep!

    Although I’ve heard that walmart is pretty ruthless. The weasel their vendors down so much that they aren’t making anything, or buy overseas…

    Of course, I shop at walmart too, so perhaps I’m being a bit hypocritical…

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  14. I buy local ALWAYS. The best example is the hardware store.. the local mom & pop, not the big chain.

    I’m all for local. Got to help thy neighbor.

  15. [...] Reasons reminds us of the importance of helping local “mom and pop” shops AKPC_IDS += "3431,";SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Friday’s Yakezie Roundup – August 27, 2010", [...]

  16. We prefer to dine out at locally owned restaurants versus the chains. As you noted the prices are usually better and the service is definitely better.

    I plan to start attending the farmer’s market so we can eat more local produce.

  17. @Financial Samurai
    We do this as much as possible! We don’t have a local grocery store, so we do go to Walmarts or Giant Eagle.

    I like to help local stores, but I also don’t want vacant stores downtown… That’s just plain sad!

  18. @Bucksome Boomer
    We buy sweet corn at the local farmers market, but my wife’s mother grows some vegetables too, and we use those. We do buy frozen broccoli at the big box stores though.

  19. MR, we’re big fans of buying local, from buying produce from the OK food co-op, or banking at a small regional bank.