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Live Local, Buy Local

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of an economic meltdown. I’m just telling you in case you’re living in a more comfortable bubble than I am.
We are living in a bubble here in Santa Cruz. It’s a nice, comfortable one where Walmart hasn’t yet shown its cheap ugly face, where we have a thriving arts community and people keep voting to give our libraries money. I love that, but I also worry.
Human instincts don’t always send us away from danger. Our instincts tell us to run from a mountain lion, but they say that you should stand your ground, wave your arms over your head, and yell. If you run, you’ll lose the race.
The economy is similar. When things look bad, we all start worrying about our own bank accounts and do the opposite of what’s needed. We go for the cheaper deals, looking more and more to the huge chains that helped to get us in this mess in the first place.
It’s clear that if our instinct is to run to Target instead of buying from a locally owned business, we’re acting against our best self-interest.
Read this:
“This study concludes that if residents of Grand Rapids and surrounding Kent County, Michigan, were to redirect 10 percent of their total spending from chains to locally owned businesses, the result would be $140 million in new economic activity for the region, including 1,600 new jobs and $53 million in additional payroll.” That’s from, a website that offers plenty of numbers like that which should be scaring us all to our local stores.
Mind you, Santa Cruz is better than most places. In many areas of this country, you won’t find a locally owned drugstore, supermarket, or jewelry store. People go to the mall for clothing, the strip mall for snacks, and Walmart for everything.
The town I grew up in, Midland, Michigan, had a period when things were looking really bad. Like all Michigan towns of its vintage, it had a Main Street lined with false-fronted buildings that housed local stores: the drugstore, the bakery, the pizza joint, the coffee shop, the fine ladies clothing shop. My ophthalmologist was there when I was a kid. There was an old post office, too. Behind the downtown was the thriving farmer’s market. There was also a J.C.Penney, but it seemed to coexist happily with the local businesses.
Then downtowns went out of style, and a mall was opened at the outskirts of town. I have photos from a trip home where Main Street was looking pretty dingy and unwanted. Why go walk on icy sidewalks when you can park near the entrance to Meier Thrify Acres (similar to Walmart) and stay inside the whole time?
Luckily, whoever was in charge at that time took the demise of downtown seriously, and they figured something out. They realized that there was a market out there, hungry for shops they can walk to from modern, comfortable housing. Bring on the old folks! They built a retirement community downtown, and a nice hotel for visitors. Suddenly downtown was hopping again. I don’t know if it still is, but when I visited Midland last, I hardly recognized it. They put in lovely brick sidewalks, for gosh sakes!
Our area of California is not too similar to Midland (that’s why I’m here!). We have an extended natural geographic area that is home to a number of towns, all independent from each other in government but interdependent in economy. I know very few people who have an entire family that lives, works, and shops in the same town. In Midland, that was by far the majority of the population. But here in Santa Cruz County, we are more free-flowing. Our stores have to get the word out across the county, not just down the street. And our population has to redefine “local.”
I live in Aptos, and I have several local businesses that I am a passionate supporter of: the farmer’s market, Aptos Natural, Frank’s Pharmacy, The Farm Bakery and its wonderful little tschachke store, Magnolia Road, the new yogurt shop in the front of a tanning salon, and more. Local stores I love outside of Aptos are the excellent Swingtime Cafe in Watsonville, which I frequented when my son was in school nearby, Capitola BookCafe, and too many to name in Santa Cruz: Bookshop Santa Cruz, Shopper’s Corner, Lulu Carpenter’s, and on and on.
Bookstores are a case in point. I’ll end with this food for thought, again from the website mentioned above:
“Every $1 million spent at local bookstores, for example, creates $321,000 in additional economic activity in the area, including $119,000 in wages paid to local employees. That same $1 million spent at chain bookstores generates only $188,000 in local economic activity, including $71,000 in local wages.”
OK, so you still may see me in Target buying toilet paper, but otherwise, Suki says: Gitcher butt outta Border’s and hop on down to Bookshop!

Posted in Parenting.

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