Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hooray for Mom and Pop!

First off, I just want to say Hi, and Thank You to all of you following my blog....I'm touched that so many are interested in my random word spewings!  Each time I see I have a new follower my heart does a little leap of joy!  :)

Making new friends, whether it's online or off, opens us up to new ideas, new perspectives, and new concepts that we might not have been exposed to otherwise.  If one is open to new ideas, that is....for many years I wasn't.  I had my narrow view of the world and refused to think - or even peek - outside the box.  I didn't want to be troubled by having to think about anything challenging, see.  Thank goodness that's all changed now!

All that to lead up to what I really wanted to newest tangent, if you will.  Well, not really new....but something that's been building in the back of my head for months:  the concept of buying local and supporting your locally-owned businesses instead of patronizing national chains.

Now, everyone has already heard for years about how and why Walmart and the concept of the "big box" store are evil and drive local stores out of business, etc. etc.  But did you ever really stop and think about all of the ramifications such chains bring upon us as a whole?  I never had, until recently.  I looked at the issue on a surface level only and said, "Oh yes, I agree it's evil," and then went on about my business without altering my shopping habits.   50's Times shared a link to a documentary called "Independent America" a couple from Canada made about the death of local businesses and "mom and pop" stores and restaurants in the U.S. and I have to say, it really opened my eyes in a way other information on the topic hadn't before. 

Here is the link to watch the documentary on Hulu - it's about an hour long, but well worth it.  I encourage you to make the time to watch it (I know many of you already follow 50's Times, but if you haven't watched this yet, please do!). 

What's wrong with going to big box stores and chains?  Well, I could rant my views until the cows come home, but I won't bore you with that.  I have a feeling many of you probably already feel the same way as I, anyway.  Besides, what could be more vintage in this day and age than making the conscious choice to patronize your local shops and restaurants instead of lining the pockets of CEOs a thousand miles away? 

In that documentary, someone interviewed talked about the "10%" rule:  if everyone made the conscious choice to make just 10% of their purchases at a locally owned business (and not a chain franchise simply owned by someone local), it would help out their communities economies immensely.  I really like that idea, but I'm going to try and go beyond 10% as much as possible.  Unfortunately, our finances right now won't allow me to completely eradicate all big box shopping; for example, buying a package of toilet paper at a grocery store versus buying it at a box store like Walmart has an astronomical price difference, with the box store coming out the victor, even if one uses coupons.  And admittedly, shopping at a local grocery store will result in a higher total on the receipt than buying groceries at Walmart; one has to be practical about things when one's income is really, really, low.....but one can also make changes in other areas to accomodate more local shopping, something I aim to do in this new year. 

I've been attempting to cook more at home instead of eating out (and doing more cooking from scratch instead of relying on frozen convenience foods), but for times we do eat out I want to patronize a local restaurant instead of a chain.  And if I want fast food - which will be less often as I lose more weight - I'll choose the "smaller" chains like Dairy Queen, Sonic, and Runza (a Nebraska regional chain).  If we get bored from the places in town here, there's several small towns that are within a 15 minute drive that have some great places to eat.  Here is a wonderful resource to help find local eateries, and celebrate mom and pop culture:  Roadside Online.  Also, when summer rolls around again, I'm going to take full advantage of my local farmer's market.  I did a little bit this past summer, but not as much as I could have.  I'm also going to buy more groceries at our local stores, and patronize K-Mart more for those dry-goods items like the above mentioned example of toilet paper.  I know, K-Mart is still a big box store.....but it's a little less "evil' than Walmart. 

On a different but similar vein of thought, this can even go beyond just local stores and Jessica at Chronically Vintage posted a blog about a new discovery she made of an indie magazine that focuses on quality not quantity.  As magazines fold left and right, there's also a growing number of smaller independent magazines starting up that are catering to niche interests, but also are seeming to take into consideration the quality of the content, instead of regurgitating out the same information a dozen other publications has (not to mention the 80% of ads one has to wade through in those other mags).  If you come across one of these indie mags and it's something that's right up your alley, do you part and support them!

On yet another tangent, last night Husband and I were discussing the newest electronic buzz gadget, Kindle, and the downside to this latest e-sensation.  Loss of jobs due to printers and publishing houses closing.  More bookstores closing - independent booksellers are already pretty much extinct thanks to box book stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, and now even they're in trouble.  Libraries becoming extinct.  Potential monopoly on the book marketing business by Amazon, resulting in fewer options for readers and authors alike.  One more piece of technology to make us dependent on!  And while it may not be as obvious, I think this, too, ties in with how important it is to be conscious of the bigger picture and what consequences can come of our don't get me wrong, technology and progress are good things....but not all of it. 

It's my hope that these tough times are making people more mindful about how they spend money....not only for their pocketbooks, but also in looking at the big picture at the ramifications our purchases can make on our way of life if we don't take care.  We, the consumers, must ask ourselves if our spending habits will make us pay a higher price further down the road....not just in dollars, but in the way our entire society runs.  If we don't like what we're seeing, don't like things the way they are, it's up to us to take a stand and make the change, using our weapons of choice:  our cash, checkbooks and debit cards.

What about you, do you buy locally and support your independent stores and restaurants?  With the biggest shopping time of the year upon us as Christmas approaches, and in this tough economy, are you purchasing more for less, or less for better quality?  Which is more important to you?  Share your thoughts!


  1. Wonderful post, sweetie!

    Yes, I've totally been a HUGE supporter of the "Think Local First" campaign...I feel it's SO important to give our little local guys a fair shake....unless the service is God-awful, as was the case at one of our local pharmacies. I had trouble feeling sorry for them when Walgreen's moved into the same strip and put 'em out.

    Karma,'s all about karma!

  2. Yep, there's pros and cons to everything. I just hate not having any choice except to go to a box town isn't at that point yet but who knows what the future will bring? We as a society have been lulled into a sense of complacency about...well, everything, it seems.

    Thanks for sharing your karma, Kathryn!

  3. Oh dear! I'm reading this just as I'm about to make a big Amazon Christmas purchase! I try to get as much as I can from etsy and such (and I never go in Wal Mart! Too overwhelming and kinda scary!). But now maybe I'll pay the bit more and buy from an independent bookstore that has an online presence.

  4. Great post, Gingerella...makes you think, anyway - I really think one should try to support local business if it is a viable option to Mega-lo-mart...but then again, the big box folks are in the final analysis 'capitalism in action'...if you can sell folks 'ever what you need' (local colloquialism) under one roof, at the cheapest price, that's a hard nut to crack...and it's hard to begrudge folks of the best available value. Also, every big box that is built typically also creates multiple 'satellite' stores and restaurants around it, thus creating more jobs for the community.
    On the other hand, if you are looking for someone who actually KNOWS anything about a particular product, good luck finding that at 'big box' - that is where the locals can gain some ground, as well as offering more diverse stuff. As an example - We were in Target tonight, and I was looking for the new '4-in-1' DVD collections of classic movies that Warner Bros. has put out, and the place didn't have them...nor ANY other 'classic' movie...but plenty of 'recent titles'... it was pretty sad... And of course there are the big box employee complaints, as well as reportedly how the suppliers get the 'bait and switch'- once they commit to sell gobs of their product thru Wal-mart, Wally renegotiates and knocks the profit margin for the supplier WAY down...that is pretty crafty, if actually true.
    Also not too big on the Kindle deal, nor the 'iTunes' is cool tech, no doubt, and fine as a 'backup', but I like to have a 'physical copy' of a CD, DVD, or book...I always say, if your computer / phone gadget fritzes out, then your stuff is lost, right? Unless you back up everything, which means more $$$ and time to mess with it...I'd rather use a bookcase.
    BTW...I have decided to boycott any store which has no Ginger in it... :-)

  5. Emma - don't worry, I'm waiting on an Amazon shipment myself. ;) It's not a black and white issue...wouldn't it be great if everything in life were? It'd be so much easier. But it's not practical nowadays to buy 100% local, so I'm just going to use my better judgement as each situation arises. If I have the option of buying the same item locally, I will. If I don't have the option, then I'm not going to feel guilty for buying at a box store, or online.

  6. Jwalker commented on my blog and told me about this post! I guess I could share that I've never been to Walmart before...
    And I was also talking to him about Kindle a few weeks ago! I really don't want one because I don't like staring at screens for very long (even the computer). Also, if it's a book for school, how do you highlight and take notes? I don't want to do that electronically. I usually buy books used, but if I want to get a new one, I generally walk to my local book store to get it. I don't really like ordering online unless I have to. And I really like that book spot, so I want it to stay there! (They have a great section of books about old movies too!) My mom always tries to convince me to buy them on Amazon, so I have to keep explaining my intentions. She doesn't agree with me though. My aunt is really good at supporting local stores though. And handmade things, and good causes, too.
    I love going to the farmer's market, but I don't go as often as I used to. I guess at college, you just eat the food that's here. I can't do too much about that.
    I rarely eat out, but when I do I always eat at independent restaurants. And I do like to go to In-N-Out if I want a burger... is that a small enough chain? When I last checked they only had places in California and Nevada... But still, I haven't been there in about a year. I never go to any other fast food places either. Gee, what do I eat? When I actually grab my own food to eat, I shop at Trader Joe's.
    When it comes to clothes, though, I'm pretty bad. I know my mother would KILL me if I bought something really expensive, so I can't. I try to buy more used clothing, but that's difficult around this college town. So I usually shop at Urban Outfitters (but I pick my things very carefully there as their quality is HORRIBLE for the price), Forever 21, and H&M. Like, I could go get pants from a higher end line that is made here for $200-$300, or I could get them at Forever 21 for $18. And they don't look cheap either - I wouldn't pick out something that did. And that doesn't lead me to buy multiple pants at one time because they are cheaper. I just get one pair. So sometimes I have to do less of lesser.
    For a majority of presents, I'm going into my art cupboard and seeing what I can create. And I'll probably buy chocolates for people too.

    Okay now I really have to study for finals, hopefully this novel-long comment will last everyone a few days until I return. :)


  7. It is so inspiring to read your post and the subsequent comments. It IS really difficult to try to buy local, particularly when you live in a small town that has a Walmart. We had businesses close just when they HEARD Walmart was coming, and of course more have closed since they opened their doors. Now they've "revamped" the store and you can't find anything and there's less of everything and I HATE having to go there. I decorated my tree entirely with things I'd found at yard sales and local thrift stores and most of the items in my kitchen were found the same way. Walmart has cut waaay back on the number of employees and employee hours so they're really not helping with the employment situation here, either. Yet and still, the parking lot is jammed this time of year. Let's all remember to "Buy Local, Think Global".

  8. jwalker: For me, it all comes down to choice....and that our choices for shopping at places other than huge Mega-Lo-Marts (heh, love the King of the Hill reference!) are slowly being taken away from us.

    I know that the days of thriving downtowns and corner grocery stores are long gone and will never return; downtowns have been dying over the last 30 years. I'm not trying to be all doom and gloom and conspiracy theorist, but the way that just a small handfull of corporations have us by the jugular is frightening to contemplate. We've been conditioned like Pavlov's dog over the last few decades to run to whoever has the lowest price, and quality and customer service no long matter as long as we have that cheap little piece of plastic that we don't need in our hands!

    I'm just going to be more mindful of how and where I spend my money these days, and opt for local if I can.

  9. Lauren: call me old fashioned, but I like real books. :) I like the feel of them in my hand, the scent of the paper - especially if it's a new book - visually seeing the progress I'm making as the place where my bookmark is goes further and further back, I like the way they look on the bookshelf....I could go on.

    I just hope your campus dining facility is a good one - the one here is AWFUL! Not much choice when you're a student, I agree. Now, I'm not 100% anti-chain, if there's no viable option elsewhere then it's a no-brainer....there's not many independent clothiers around anymore (unless you're in a huge city and have unlimited disposable income!); us poor peons have no choice but to buy clothes at chains unless we only buy used or make our own.

    I wouldn't worry Lauren, you seem to me to be an "old soul" and you already "get it". :)

  10. Vintage Christine: Yes, I think the Walmart trap is affecting smaller, more rural places more than metropolitan areas, places where they're the first big chain to come in. In that documentary they highlighted a couple of places that fought them coming in tooth and nail because they knew what would happen.

    In my own town, we'd had a K-Mart for as far back as I can remember, but in 1984 we got our first mall, and Walmart was in one end of the mall and opened at the same time - everyone was worried about the downtown dying and they went about doing a major cosmetic overhaul to try and entice people to continue to shop downtown; they planted trees and put in park benches along the sidewalks and got after store owners to do some much needed upkeep to their store fronts. Despite all that a few stores closed, but as a whole our downtown limped along for a few years but ended up surviving by opening up specialty boutiques and antique stores and such. But, this is a town of 30,000, so we were able to pull it off easier than if we'd been smaller.

  11. I first learned about the deep ramifications of big box stores when I was in high school - I took a course on Management because it was an easy credit, but I learned so much. Mom and Pop stores are almost impossible to find these days, but when I do find them I like to go back and shop there (for example, Anne Taintor magnets ;)
    Didja know Vermont has no Wal-Marts? They've managed to resist the empire! It's hard to believe that Sam Walton was once an independent store owner, even closing down a few times because of large chains taking his business.
    As for the Kindle, I can't understand how people can read a book on a computer! What about turning the pages? Bookmarks? The smell of a new or an old book? And what better joy is there than looking at a huge shelf of a book collection? I adore my book collection. I will always be supporting book stores, libraries, and publishing houses, even if I have to write my own darn books.

  12. I can't imagine authors would be very happy putting their sweat and blood into a novel just to have it put on an electronic machine. It must be 10x more satisfying to hold your own, tangible book, and fan through the pages.


  13. I'm only 25 years old, but already I feel nostalgic for the days of mom and pop shops. I've seen so many sectors of the retail market here in Canada get swallowed up by huge monopolistic corporations. Budget permitting I try to buy locally as often as possible, but even just finding genuinely local retailers for many "every day" items is getting more challenging with each passing year.

    Excellent post, Betsy, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important topic.

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

  14. is pretty 'disturbing' how conglomerates are forming into larger and larger corporations, eating up much of the smaller companies.
    We had a large grocery chain here in town which was the 'top' for many years before W-M came in... it is now basically gone, with only a few stores remaining as 'independent' stores in 'rural' areas. Same deal goes for record stores...of course their biggest threat is the 'download' industry... I think it is a bit ironic that the music industry is back to basically selling 'singles', like they started out in the 40's and 50's...
    As for W-M, tho...ya gotta give Sam credit for building the empire, which to me would be one of the hardest roads to travel - making it in retail - he really was a guru. But it is sad that it is 'all or nothing' when it comes to W-M opening up in areas...knocking out mom and pop...such are the the perils of the free enterprise system, y'all...


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