It's that time of year again when American Express reminds us to SHOP SMALL! They encourage us to SUPPORT LOCAL! And for our support we can proudly display our Shop Small bags...a pat on the back that we did our part to help independent businesses. We made a difference on this "very special" one day of the year.
But there's my problem...
Our small businesses don't need our support on this ONE day-
they need us EVERY day.
We talk about charming towns like Geneva, Oak Park, and Wheaton with their fabulously unique shops, yet we rarely support the ones in our own communities.
I understand the concern- we equate small with expensive.
While small shops often can't match mass merchants in deep discounts, box store employees can rarely match the product knowledge, passion, or customer service of the independent shops.
In 2013 I started a year long challenge...to ONLY shop small businesses (with a couple exceptions like gas and wherever I could find my contact solution...click here to learn how it started).
No chain grocery stores.
"You'll spend a fortune."
That was the initial response of nearly everyone who heard about my challenge...you'll spend a fortune.
Now, I can't tell you what I had for lunch yesterday, let alone last week. But, I'm fairly neurotic about keeping track of every dollar I spend. I can tell you exactly how much I spent on groceries in August of 2012.
Some people like carpet lines...I like expense charts.
In the end, everyone was right. I spent more that year.
Less than $20 a month.
And, in 2013, I spent less than $20 at Target (contact solution!).
What did I learn?
*Quality over quantity. I spent more than $212.82 in unnecessary crap in 2012.
*Convenience is completely a matter of perspective. I didn't necessarily go out of my way to buy necessities, but instead found them at new places wherever we happened to be for sports, activities, or even on vacation.
*Need is also interpretative. Just because I was out of shampoo didn't mean that we needed more...there was always one or two under a sink that I didn't necessarily like, but they kept me from driving 5 miles to buy more.
*When you trade chain restaurants for independents you find cuisine you didn't even know existed. Who would've thought that there are incredible South African savory pies in Montgomery?
*And, when you can talk to the owners and chefs, you feed off their passion and enthusiasm.
The coolest part of the challenge, though, was hearing the connections readers have with these businesses: an uncle who created the Nuevo Leon mural, birthday cake traditions from Fleckenstein's; and introducing friends to amazing vacation finds- I'll never go to Orlando again without a visit to Cafe Tu Tu Tango.
I admit, it was cool seeing my article posted on a shop wall on return visits. But even better was recently seeing a friend Facebook "check-in" at Crusade Burger Bar. I laughed and commented that I had just written about them an hour ago...her reply..."I know, that's why we're here!"
Over the past few years I've watched some of the featured business expand...and sadly too many close.
They need us.
People open their business in your town because they want to be a part of your community. They're happy to donate to the schools because that's likely where their kids go to school...but they need YOU to support them in the community too.
If you're shopping small on Saturday, fantastic. But go a step further and tell others about the places you find!
And if you find somewhere really cool...tell me about it too...I'd love to check it out!
*Ready to learn more simple ways to live a healthier lifestyle? Excited to hear about cool small shops & see if my weekly Pinterest task was a success or fail?
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- Want to know how the Shop Small challenge started? Find out here
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