Get Rich Slowly wrote an article on Buying Locally, that also spurred a couple of other good ones at Money Reasons, The Simple Dollar , My Two Dollars. I particularly liked a couple of How to Make a difference’s reasons, one of them being keeping in touch with the seasons.
I live in the Berkshires, which is an area frequented by many tourists, mainly from NYC. If it weren’t for the quaint farmer’s markets, organic restaurants, independent theaters and other Norman Rockwell-esque sights and sounds, this place wouldn’t be nearly as cool. I love that I know my bike repair guy buy name. Kenny rocks and he rides a mean unicycle.
At the same time though, I hold a grudge against one of our hardware stores. They carried the same things as home depot but charged 50% more on lots of things because they knew the depot was an hour away. When I became a new homeowner, there was no way I was spending $140 on a 6 foot ladder instead of $75. Thankfully after a few years, The Home Depot moved in and prices dropped at both places. The hardware store was on my banned list for about 5 years, but now I’m glad they have survived and have forgiven them for their evil ways. They are a much better company now that the Depot is in town..both with service and pricing. Before the Depot, they were like the Comcast of selling hammers.
On the flip side, we have a great lumberyard that offers free delivery. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re covered in paint and spackle dust, you have a momentary lapse in geometry skills, and you’re suddenly one sheet of drywall short to finish the job? It’s SO NICE to just pick up the phone and have it delivered to my door while I’m working on said project. That has a lot of value and he will get my business every time.
I also buy lots of things over the internet, which enables many small business owners to be successful regardless of location. For example, there is a Halloween store in the town I grew up in. It’s a rockin store. I never knew how they could justify having such a great selection year round. I mean everything down to professional quality Santa Suits. Well, I found out that they are also one of the biggest online sellers of costumes around the country via mail order/internet sales. There are a couple of places here, where people have a mail order business of some obscure thing (like scrap booking) and can only be successful if they have people from outside their community buying.
I have mixed feelings about Walmart. I still use them for diapers, but they really aren’t the cheapest store anymore for a lot of things. The shopping experience is horrible and prices aren’t as good as they used to be, so the amount of $$ I spend there now is minimal. A couple of my grocery stores are starting to feature produce from local farmers and I think that’s great. They have the buying power of a moderately sized chain, but they are still supporting the local guys.
Lastly, I’ve worked for several big corporations and they spend loads of money on the communities they are in. They build parks, fix up schools and community centers, donate heavily to local museums, etc. Plus they have offered me a fantastic career with great benefits. Our wages are above average for the area and that gives us extra income that can be fed back into our community.
So after all that long windedness, what I’m trying to say is that my ideal is to have a good mix of both types of companies. I see value in both, but I also think there are drawbacks in living in an area that’s either 100% chain store, or 100% local. What do you think?