As the holidays quickly approach and you find yourself scrambling around town picking up those last minute gifts, consider doing your neighbors a favor by shopping local this year. It seems odd to have to remind people of the option to shop local – for centuries that was the only way to shop. Nowadays we can find practically anything we want with a few taps on a keyboard and a click of a mouse and in a few days it will arrive on our doorstep like magic. Nation-wide chain stores and their big budget advertising have overtaken our billboards and televisions and mailboxes with images of things we need and they provide us with coupons and convenient locations to get them. How can an independently-owned small business compete?
Lately I've noticed campaigns like Occupy Amazon and America Unchained as well as sign postings on facebook encouraging people to “Shop Small” and “Buy Local.” KOMO 4 News did a feature last week on this topic and spotlighted Renton's own happy delusions as one of the area's best examples of an independently-owned shop that features the work of local artists and craftspeople. You can watch it here: http://www.komonews.com/news/consumer/KOMO-viewers-share-their-buy-local-favorites-135716743.html?tab=video&c=y
As an artist and craftsperson who recently benefitted from a banner sales month at happy delusions, I decided to take my money and invest it back into the neighborhood that gave it to me. There is something very different about the act of purchasing items at a small business compared to shopping at the mall or other major retailers. When you shop at a small business, your money isn't divvied up between corporate execs, factories in China, advertising campaigns, and minimum wage employees – it stays in your community. Every dollar you spend amounts to rent, groceries, and gifts that your neighbors can buy for their families thanks to you.
As passionate as I am about shopping local, I'm also a proponent of shopping sustainably, so last Friday I focused my gift-getting efforts on some of my favorite resale shops downtown. My kids are still young enough not to care about brand names or the latest flashy gadgets so they have no problem with pre-owned objects. At Jet City Espresso, I got my daughter a child-size guitar. Hurry in because they're closing at the end of the month and getting rid of everything. Well, not everything. Several of the things I inquired about weren't for sale, just for show. Maybe their next business endeavor will be an art gallery or museum.
Next, I stopped in The Old Renton Book Exchange. The owner, Dacia Hanson, has amassed an excellent collection of current and collectible books as well as timeless classics. Most are around 1/3 the list price. From her holiday display I chose 2 books to add to our Christmas book basket that we set out every year. I got my son 2 books and my husband Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!). (I hope he's not reading this.)
My third stop was at Little Quadoo Consignment shop because I needed some holiday shoes for my daughter's preschool Christmas musical that night. I ended up finding the perfect shoes, plus some adorable boots, pants, a skirt, and some jeans for my boy, all in great barely-worn condition. The bill was $40 but since I had $20 in my consignor account, I used that and only had to pay $20.
Last weekend, when we were shopping at Pike Place for Seattle-themed gifts for our family, an artist whose prints I bought looked me square in the eyes and said, “Thank you. You don't know how much it means to me that you chose to do your shopping here rather than the mall.” I told him yes, I do, because it means a lot to me too.