Why I buy local

Kris and I live in a small, quiet neighborhood south of Portland. When the trolley line ran through here — between 1893 and 1959 — Oak Grove was actually thriving community, with shops and stores and more. (It's true! I've seen pictures!) Now, though, downtown Oak Grove, such as it is, consists of a convenience store, a hair salon, a joint once named “the best dive bar in Portland” — and the home office of Get Rich Slowly.

There's also another business in downtown Oak Grove: a small coffee shop that opened a couple of years ago. It struggled a little at first, but eventually business picked up, and it's become a valuable part of our community. In fact, Kris and I think of the Oak Grove Coffeehouse as the only real hub our area has.

But there's a problem. This summer hasn't been kind to the Oak Grove Coffeehouse. The business is struggling. Jason, the owner, has been forced to cut back hours. He's waiting for classes to resume at the nearby high school in hopes that the teachers and students will bring a cash infusion. But for now, things look grim. Here's a recent Facebook post:

The Oak Grove Coffeehouse needs your love!

I'll admit that I haven't been supporting the coffee shop as much as I used to. Kris stops in once or twice a week on her way to work, but I've cut it out of my budget for both fitness and frugality reasons. (I'm living the latte factor!)

Why I Buy Local

Still, I feel passionately that small businesses are vital to the success of a community. It's probably because my family has owned many small businesses in the past, but I do my best to support Mom and Pop operations whenever possible, and I try to avoid national chains of all types.

  • I've always joined local gyms instead of national chains.
  • Kris and I almost always choose local restaurants instead of national chains.
  • I prefer small, independent bookstores to national chains. (Except that I use Amazon a lot, thus proving my hypocrisy.)
  • Whenever possible, I choose independent movie theaters instead of the national chains. (I loathe big chain theaters.)
  • I try to use small barber shops instead of national chains.
  • When we lived in a small town, we used a small, local grocery store instead of a national chain. We don't have that option now unless we want to drive 20 minutes.
  • I use a local credit union instead of a national bank.
  • Kris and I have never really had an auto mechanic, but she's just started taking her car to the place around the corner.
  • And so on.

When it comes to local businesses, I try to put my money where my mouth is. I vote with my dollars. Why do I buy local? For a lot of reasons, including:

  • I believe that small, locally-owned businesses give character to a community. They improve its quality of life. Yes, every Starbucks you walk into is the same, and this makes a lot of people comfortable. But I like that independent coffee shops (or record stores or comic shops or bookstores) have a unique feel. I like that Flying Pie pizza is unique, and not just the same homogenous stuff you can get from Domino's or Pizza Hut.
  • I believe that buying local products from local merchants fosters community by enriching my neighbors, by supporting their endeavors. I've written a lot about the importance of social capital — mutual goodwill — and frequenting local businesses is a great way to strengthen social bonds.
  • Small, locally-owned businesses are more likely to keep the money they earn in the community; it's not siphoned off to the corporate offices in Akron, Ohio. And local businesses are more likely to use local suppliers. I've never found a local product at our nearby Safeway, for instance, but the local produce stand has fruits and vegetables from around our area. (They even had a bunch of Kris's currants for sale recently!)
Note: I found many internet claims that “local businesses return about 80% of each dollar to their community”, while chains remove about 80% of each dollar from the community. This sounds compelling, but I can't find actual research to back up the claim, so I'm skeptical. This page cites studies about the economic impact of local vs. national. So does this one.

There are indeed times that I'll eat or shop at a national chain, but if I have a choice, I'll almost always opt for local. Yes, there usually is. (Though not always.) But the cost differential isn't great. Even when I was digging out of debt, I was willing to pay extra to buy local. I considered a sort of “community tax” — a surcharge I paid to keep the local area vibrant and strong. That's important to me, so I'm willing to pay a little extra to make it happen.

Not everyone feels the same way, of course.

The Opposition Speaks

Kris and I hosted the annual Roth family reunion last Saturday. It was a smallish gathering (only about 20 adults and 10 kids), but it was lively. Roths can be rambunctious, and we're not afraid to debate with each other.

Over our sausages and sauerkraut, somehow the conversation turned to supporting local businesses. I forget why the subject came up, but it's not surprising:

  • My family owns a business that makes boxes in Portland.
  • My cousin Ted is an artist who makes baskets and furniture.
  • My cousin Bob has a company that builds granite countertops.
  • My cousin Tammy runs a tutoring business out of her home.
  • And my youngest brother is trying to get his own business off the ground.

As you might expect, because there are a lot of small businesses in my family, there's a lot of “buy local” sentiment. But not everyone feels that way. During our rowdy conversation, Tammy made it clear that she'd rather shop at Wal-Mart than at her neighborhood stores.

“Oh, come on,” said Tammy's brother, Ben. “There are people here from all sorts of political backgrounds, but I think there are two things we can all agree on: Monsanto is evil, and you shouldn't shop at Wal-Mart.”

“Why shouldn't I shop at Wal-Mart?” Tammy asked. “The stuff is cheap, and I don't have a lot of money to spend.”

The argument discussion continued for several minutes: Tammy vs. the rest of the Roths. When Tammy learned that her brother Ted lives 2-1/2 hours from the nearest Wal-Mart, she was appalled. “I would not like that,” she said. “Where do you get your groceries?”

“Just the local store in town,” Ted said.

“And you're paying through the nose, right?” said Tammy.

My brother Jeff jumped in: “But he's supporting a local business, supporting the local economy. If local business isn't supported…”

“Well,” said Tammy, interrupting. “Think what you want. I'm just not that into the local economy.”

Tammy has some valid points. National chains are successful for a reason. They're cheap, they're widely available, and they're familiar. You know what you're going to get and how much you're going to pay. You know how the system works. Working with local businesses can sometimes be…interesting.

Shop Baker
Why shop local first? Click the image to view a larger version.

Do YOU Buy Local?

Family bickering aside, the debate over the importance of buying local occasionally gets debated in communities across the U.S. Last week, for instance, USA Today posted an article about towns trying to block chain restaurants in order to preserve character and protect local businesses.

I was curious what GRS readers thought, so last week I polled my Twitter followers and the folks at the ever-growing GRS Facebook page. I asked, “Do you go out of your way to support small businesses in your neighborhood? Why or why not?” Here are some of the responses:

  • Michele Gilhouse wrote: I go out of my way to support local business because I want my neighbors and community to prosper. At times I know I pay more, but it doesn't bother me.
  • Jane Cny wrote: Yes, I support local businesses and have made a conscious decision to increase my support, including moving my money to a local back. I have been unemployed for over a year, and my dentist, my hairdresser and my dry cleaner have all lowered their prices for me to support me during a tough time. I can't imagine a big business doing this. You can bet these people will continue to get my business!
  • Cheryl Estridge wrote: I try too, but I also price shop and buy only from places that are offer the same goods for less $$$$. I won't spend more money just to support a local business.
  • Melissa Bush wrote: I prefer local stores, and when it comes to food and housewares it's pretty easy to avoid chains. Clothing is a different story. Chains have too much buying power to let a small clothing store selling new clothing.
  • Shari Theroux wrote: I try very hard to buy local whenever I can. Being a small town, though, I can't always find what I need here and have to either travel or buy online.
  • Janell Adamczyk wrote: Miss the days of the local shops – like when I was growing up in Chicago. You had almost all you needed down the street or a short bus ride away.

Most of the folks who responded on Twitter and Facebook try to support local stores over national chains, but a few do so with reservations. They're wary of paying higher prices, and some have had horrible service experiences. (National chains usually have quality standards that keep service uniformly good.)

Conclusion

Let me make one thing clear: I don't condemn anyone who does not or cannot buy local. I'm an ardent supporter of small businesses, and I hope that you will be too, but I'm not going to say you're wrong if you have good reasons for shopping elsewhere.

All things being equal, I suspect most people would choose to buy local. But each of us has a different price at which local is no longer an option. For some, this point is immediate: they'll always buy the cheapest option, regardless of other factors. Others — and I know a few like this — will buy local no matter the cost.

So where does my zealous support of local businesses leave me with regards to the Oak Grove Coffeehouse? What about the latte factor? What about my diet? I've made some compromises.

Twice a week for the past two weeks, I've walked up to the store on my way to the office. I buy a Mexican Coke and a cinnamon roll. (I don't actually like coffee.) Now, I know that my $8 per week isn't going to keep the place in business. But I hope that it helps a little.

Meanwhile, I'm just exercising a little harder to burn off those extra calories…

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Russ
Russ
10 years ago

I’m pragmatic about it. I won’t go out of my way to use a local business if it has an inferior product, but I often find local businesses superior for some things. Examples: *) I generally shop at a chain supermarket, but once a week I pick up meat and vegetables from a farm shop which offers better quality and sometimes lower prices. *) I train at a local martial arts gym, which offers far superior training to the nearest chain gym. *) I use a local salon/hairdresser because they provide better service for the price than the nearest chain.… Read more »

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

This is just a generalization, but, in my experiences local stores/restaurants have cared much more about making sure I was happy with my experience to ensure I will return in the future. I’ve never had a national chain care the way locally owned have.

Karen in MN
Karen in MN
10 years ago

I’d probably buy local if I could, but in my town (suburb?) there aren’t hardly any local stores selling the stuff I typically buy. Also, I work full time and have a family. Only the large chains are really convenient because I don’t have time to drive all over buying bread here, a hammer there, etc. I shop at a large chain grocery store most weeks (they do sell some local produce, though), and I shop at a super Target (which also sells some local produce) if I also have to pick up kids’ clothes or shoes or hardware or… Read more »

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
10 years ago

Here in our neighborhood, it’s a bit of an unusual choice regarding shopping local for groceries.

If you go to Whole Foods, you’re shopping at a big national chain, but the actual produce (which is basically all we buy) comes from local growers.

Alternatively, you can go to the neighborhood family-owned grocery store…where all the produce is from corporate megafarms.

Matus
Matus
10 years ago

We buy at local store… (Well, the concept is different here in Europe. National is local and international is national. So this is national chain of small grocery stores.) … We buy at “local” store because we had found out that we spent less money since the store is smaller. They have everything what we need. They just don’t have the extra stuff we don’t really need (but would buy). Yes, SOME of the stuff is bit more expensive but our favorite brand of yogurts is cheaper (unavailable at some of the international chains). We also go shopping more often… Read more »

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

While I understand (and am sympathetic to) the idea of buying local, I am also a bit wary of it. I work in international development. For 40 years, we’ve been trying to persuade/force/coerce countries into shifting over their entire economic systems in order to better “produce”. The idea being that the “path to riches” for a country is to ‘let go” of their own local communities and set up a export-processing model to provide goods to the West. There was (and in some cases still is) a lot of “if you want US/Canada/Europe government aid for your country, you’re going… Read more »

Kristia@FamilyBalanceSheet
10 years ago

For 13 years, I worked for a big corporation at a desk and a lot of travel. I was absolutely oblivious to the small business community, until I quit my job to help my husband get his small business off the ground. It is incredibly hard to run a small business. It takes a lot of hours and the biz owner is usually very appreciative that you chose them over a big box store. Although some businesses are franchises owned and run by local people. I would hate for these businesses to be looked at like they are a big… Read more »

Meg
Meg
10 years ago

My mom owns an independent toy store in my hometown, so I have a bias toward small shops. One of the ways she differentiates her store from Wal-Mart is by selling toys they don’t carry, from smaller, niche companies. In my experience, that’s part of how local businesses can remain competitive. My husband and I end up supporting a lot of small shops simply because chain stores don’t cater to a lot of the things we want to buy. My Italian sausage comes from the local butcher because no one else makes it (and his prices are excellent to boot.)… Read more »

kaitlyn
kaitlyn
10 years ago

I usually buy local. It helps that I have to drive 20 minutes to get to a chain restaurant! No chain pizzas even deliver to my area. Apparently, the group of villages where I live got together some years ago and decided to ban big chain stores. A few made it through, like CVS, but the nearest Target is a pretty far drive. Still, I fully admit to shopping at chains when I must. The cute local pet store doesn’t care my brand of pet food. The local grocery store’s meat selection is overpriced and low variety, so I stock… Read more »

Beth
Beth
10 years ago

I feel like a traitor owning an e-reader 🙁 Can’t buy e-books from a local book shop!

For me, clothes are the weakness. Local shops tends to cater to upscale, older crowds so I end up in chains 🙁 We don’t have that many local grocery stores, but we have a fantastic market, and I try to buy local produce in the stores. (Where I live, they make a good effort to support local growers).

Christina
Christina
10 years ago

I live in an urban area, so while buying local includes small mom and pop shops, a lot of businesses have their headquarters here, so national or international corporations ARE local for me. Lots of people live in Akron, Ohio (not me!) and depend on their job at the corporate headquarters or depend on the business from the corporate workers. I completely agree about the character of a town and such with buying local, but it’s not like buying anything from chain restaurants doesn’t help locals either…your chain restaurant still has a local person washing the dishes and serving your… Read more »

SupportingParents
SupportingParents
10 years ago

“They’re wary of paying higher prices, and some have had horrible service experiences. (National chains usually have quality standards that keep service uniformly good.)” I have to disagree on this. I would pay much more to stay away from our chain stores and their horrible customer service. I hear great things about Walmarts and Targets in other areas of the country but ours up North are awful! If you want service, try the local grocery store owned by the same family for 150 years (yes, we have one left). I buy honey, apples, and other goods from a local farm… Read more »

Heather
Heather
10 years ago

I like the way the article discussed both sides of the issue- it is hard to find balance shopping local and getting what you need at the price point that is comfortable.

Two things that I never see discussed during this debate are franchises and local employment. Many chains are franchises and are locally owned and operated. Chain stores employ people from the community and often expand their distribution systems behind them creating more local jobs.

I am curious how those two factors play into the debate of the impact of shopping locally.

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl
10 years ago

I do try to support local businesses. Corporations do employ local people, yes, but local businesses tend to keep more money in the area (and often they treat their people better).
It’s not like I never shop at chains, but I do make a conscious effort to choose local businesses at least some of the time.

FrugalKitty
FrugalKitty
10 years ago

Though the local business sometimes charge a bit higherr than the chains, I still buy stuff from them. There are a few stores I go to since they’re nearer to my house and the owners know me (since I go there at least once a week), so that makes me feel appreciated and happy to spend money there. I always talk to the owners and from our conversations, they knew I’m a teacher so they are always very polite and would go out of their way to help me with whatevr I need (people in my community hv a lot… Read more »

ami | 40daystochange
ami | 40daystochange
10 years ago

I definitely think that income and price point(s) play a role in determining one’s shopping choices. When I was a poor, debt-ridden student, cheapest was the top consideration. I wasn’t even aware of the impact that shopping local could have on community – and I wasn’t that motivated in any case. Now that our financial situation has improved (and I have shopped at one too many chains) I prefer local over national/chain. But, as pointed out by previous commenters, the benefit to community – and the larger world-view – make the issue more complex than you might think. I think… Read more »

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

I have a similar point to Christina. I live in Saint Louis – the home of Monsanto and Budweiser (although now InBev) and other businesses. So, does that mean I buy local if I buy Roundup? I know people who work at both companies, and it is in the interest of the city for both these businesses to thrive. Not only do they provide employment, they give to local charities. I dare say corporations in general give locally to charities. Also, from an environmental standpoint it makes more sense for me to buy Bud Light brewed right here than to… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

I have to admit that I don’t make my buying decisions based on supporting the local economy at all. People are people whether they’re here or across the world. The Amish guy who makes our furniture several states away gets good use out of the money we send him, just as much as the local guy who sells it to us. Also we don’t buy much stuff. I do try to buy local for food and will pay a premium to do so, but only because local food tastes better. I am really annoyed that the local dairy no longer… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
10 years ago

I have this debate with my husband all the time — he wants to run into Target to get windshield wipers, so he doesn’t have to talk to anyone (where he was ultimately thwarted by the wrong sizes & no clerk to help him). I’d rather go to the local auto supply (an extra errand!) where they even offer to put the wipers on my car for me. Because it takes extra time (during business hours), and sometimes extra money, I am less likely to impulsively buy Stuff and will even think carefully about any “wants” or “needs”. And that… Read more »

Colleen
Colleen
10 years ago

I shop locally when I can. I do this because I believe that the quality and service is better, it is better for the community, and low prices are often offered at the cost of other things, like fair treatment of workers. Treating workers poorly and paying sub-par wages (paid to many agricultural workers) is not worth cheap lettuce to me.

Peter Bryenton
Peter Bryenton
10 years ago

Buying locally can also keep food quality high:

http://peterbryenton.typepad.com/phi_one/2010/08/dens-hens.html

Amanda
Amanda
10 years ago

I buy local for some:
the YMCA, I’ll pay $20 more a month than the next gym, but it’s walking distance from work and home (a national chain, but helps my community, as it is residential and does tons of community activities).
the fresh produce (there is a local chain of grocery store that has great meats, and local produce that generally beats to national competitors near me).
I buy non-local for some: Packaged stuff and personal care items are cheaper at the national chains.

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

But what about websites? Isn’t the small town in Portland enriched because many non-locals come to visit this wonderful site? How much poorer and worse off would I be if I limited myself to only local websites from in my town. And how many websites would survive if they were so limited?

Gretchen
Gretchen
10 years ago

I try to avoid box stores (not just walmart!) and the mall as much as possible.

Some things are easy to buy local/non chain, but some things aren’t.

This also means a lot of time spent on errands, which can save me money in the long run. If I need to go all the different stores, sometimes I just won’t buy the thing I “need.”

Jan
Jan
10 years ago

I do both. I support local restaurants AND make sure I tip well. We eat at chains when out of town. I buy produce at the westside market when in the area- but the rest comes from my commissary. My husband buys everything he can on line- while I head to the EXPENSIVE but local hardware store. Without his shop we would have all been in bad shape during the ice storm last year! I am careful not to believe that chains are bad. They employ local people and have more checks on working conditions. If I were you JD,… Read more »

Steven Grey
Steven Grey
10 years ago

I try to shop local where possible. However, our small town in SC has been destroyed by wal-mart and other national chains. To the point that roads have been altered, and traffic flows away from the small business areas of main street. The infrastructure adjustment has forced the local guys out of business and in many circumstances you have no other choice then to shop at a national chain. Its really sad. The problems is that entire generations of Americans have been raised on National chains. Its so bad that my company is having a difficult time attracting qualified talent.… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
10 years ago

Ah, I haven’t heard the phrase “Monsanto is evil” since my days of working on organic farms. I go for a mix, depending on what I’m buying. When it comes to food, especially produce, dairy, and eggs, and a few other items available in Massachusetts, I like to buy local if and when possible. It actually ends up being more reasonable to stop at a farm stand to pick up some fruits and veggies than it is to choose from a disappointing selection at the supermarket. But as for other needs, like toiletries and cleaning products, there aren’t really any… Read more »

April
April
10 years ago

We buy local as much as possible. Our farmer’s market sells a ton of stuff, not just food items, so I buy everything I can from there, down to hand soap and laundry detergent. There’s even a guy who makes the cutest, most clever t-shirts, and I bought a few baby onesies from him for my friend’s shower. I’ve given gift baskets full of biscotti, jam, and coffee–all from the market. For other stuff, we sometimes have to frequent the grocery store, but the bulk of our food comes from the market. We make our own cleaning products, but of… Read more »

dave
dave
10 years ago

Thank JD. This might be my new favorite post of yours. You’ve pretty much nailed every benefit, and it hits home here in Detroit & Michigan where local businesses play a crucial role in recovering our communities. Thank you.

KC
KC
10 years ago

I probably go out of my way to shop locally. Basically if I have a local vs. national option I choose local. But mostly its about convenience – which is why I often shop online. If I had kids or was very busy I’d be looking for a one stop option. But I don’t understand Wal-Mart for groceries. Everytime I go there, usually to pick up non-perishable health items, I look at the groceries. The produce it pitiful and full of more startchy items. The food is heavily on the prepackaged, processed side. I do find a lot of cereal… Read more »

Pamela
Pamela
10 years ago

I guess I wonder what everyone is buying at these chain stores. I just don’t find I need a Walmart or Target or Kmart very often.

Kat
Kat
10 years ago

If I’m buying Oreos or some plastic thing made in China or toilet paper, does it really matter if I shop local? I might as well get the cheapest price at Walmart, then I have extra cash to put into my retirement savings, give to charity, or spend on a local artist’s paintings. This of course if only true if I don’t use “saving” money as an excuse to spend more! Is a Ford car made in Mexico better than a Honda car made in America? And does it matter anyway, since the car dealership and salesman is in my… Read more »

smirktastic
smirktastic
10 years ago

(National chains usually have quality standards that keep service uniformly good.) I don’t find that to be universally true. It’s just as easy for an employee of Big Box Store to blow you off or give you otherwise substandard service (regardless of whatever “standards” may be in place), becuase what do they care if you never come back? Look outside, the parking lot is still jammed. That’s why I avoid Walmart. They don’t need me, I don’t need them. I live in a mid-sized city with plenty of local and chain options. That being said, I try to strike a… Read more »

PerkStreet Jen
PerkStreet Jen
10 years ago

I love this post. You did a great job presenting both sides of a really emotional topic, and you make a good case for living the happy medium with your story. Awesome. And I’ll be sure to pass the word on about the Oak Grove Coffeehouse to friends in that area.

BA
BA
10 years ago

Hey, I work in Akron, Ohio. So when you buy a ‘good’ set of tires, I like the money coming back here. But I completely agree with the point of the post. A local mom-and-pop shop can’t make tires, but they can deliver a great coffee shop experience.

Jackie
Jackie
10 years ago

Hi, Aside from my full-time job, I work at an independent (and feminist) bookstore a couple of weekends a month. Your comment that you like to support independent bookstores, but still shop at Amazon, is disturbing to me. Independent bookstores often have a smaller stock than bigger chains, like Borders/Barnes & Noble, and certainly a smaller in-store stock than Amazon.com. However, many independent bookstores can order any book in print, and have it ready for you in the same amount of time it would take to get the book from Amazon. In addition to the reasons you list above, local… Read more »

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
10 years ago

I adore Wal-Mart; we own stock and are frequent customers. When it comes to households goods, they cannot be beat. From a comparative pricing standpoint, I can save between .50 and $1.75 on that one item alone. Compound that saving with manufactures’ coupons and there’s no limit to the savings. I think Wal-Mart is committed to one thing lower prices. The disproportionate number of Wal-Mart employees who rely on state aid, their unsavory record on labor rights, and their role in undermining the American manufacturing sector – intellectually I digest all that, but practically I know I save $50-$75 bucks… Read more »

Trina
Trina
10 years ago

This is a complicated issue. The national chains all employ local people in each area. The large stores offer more jobs, especially for less-skilled workers, part-time workers and students/retirees. When a big box store in our area recently closed, lots of people were out of work.

We support both large chains and small local businesses and feel good about both.

I’m curious…J.D. – Does your family box store only sell boxes to buyers in the Portland area? And would Ted sell his art to tourists from away?

Chris at yardsalequeen.com
Chris at yardsalequeen.com
10 years ago

I shop locally all the time – majority of my yardsale and thrift store purchases are within a 5 mile radius of my house 🙂

jaydubya
jaydubya
10 years ago

It’s not always as black and white as “chain != local” would seem. The Mellow Mushroom (national chain) down the road is locally owned by a great guy. Not only is he passionate about his pizza, he loves his customers and he gives back to the community, especially through sports. Same with the locally owned Quizno’s (national chain) that we sometimes eat lunch at the TCBY (national chain) where the family will go out for some dessert. All locally owned by local people who have great passion for what they do and for their community.

Everyday Tips
Everyday Tips
10 years ago

I would love to support local, if any ‘local’ businesses existed in my area. The local coffeehouse died after a few months. No family owned bookstores or anything. Chains are the only thing left. Oh wait, there is one small hardware store that I go to,but that is it, unfortunately.

Shalom
Shalom
10 years ago

First post disappeared with an error message, so I’ll try again. Yes, yes, of course we buy local. Who doesn’t feel good about the idea of buying local? The practice of it, though, is more complicated. In practice, we generally buy local where we are in effect buying extra service and not just some mass-produced item. So, for example, yes to local restaurants, prescription meds, bedding plants, home repair and improvement, running shoes for my daughter (the local guy custom fits them). We primarily buy groceries at a regional chain, whose headquarters is 20 miles away. I love the seafood… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
10 years ago

I don’t know about Tammy’s Wal-Mart, but mine buys local. :-O Yes, I too was shocked to learn that the green beans, zucchini, corn, and more comes from a farm 30 minutes from my house. You know what else? Wal-Mart has bakers. :-O They actually bake whole grain loaves of bread right there on site that are just as wholesome as what is sold at the farmer’s market for 3x the price. I do prefer local restaurants over chains, because I just think they are much higher quality. Ditto the hair salon, credit union, and others. I buy local when… Read more »

Carrie
Carrie
10 years ago

Funny – living in New York, there’s so many local shops to choose from that it’s really easy to avoid buying from chains. No one I know has a car, and Wal-Mart isn’t even an option (New Yorkers are not fond of the chain and have repeatedly thwarted their efforts to build here). A few months ago I went to Target in Brooklyn and I was absolutely appalled at the prices. They were easily 30-50% more than I was paying at the local mom-and-pop stores and local chains down the street in Manhattan, presumably because no one bothered to do… Read more »

Coley
Coley
10 years ago

Fascinating post, but even better comments. Particularly I enjoyed the international development expert who pointed out that on the other end of foreign produce are countries and their people struggling to get out of poverty. And the question to J.D. asking if those of us who don’t live in Portland should look for a web site from a local blogger is pretty insightful, too. Having lived all up and down the East Coast, I can promise that not every Wal-Mart is created equal. In the Northeast, they were pitiful. In the southern Mid-Atlantic, they’re awesome. While their produce selection might… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

I agree with all of the reasons you listed, but the real reason I shop local is that it’s a way of life and a style thing. A few weeks ago I was in Traverse City, MI for a wedding. The morning after, before the long drive back to Chicago, we went in search of breakfast. The guy at the hotel suggested either Denny’s, or this place called the Omelette Shoppe downtown. Of course we opted for the Omelette Shoppe! It was delicious and cheap, and the best part is that when I later saw our friend who had gotten… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

Also, I’m certainly not an international development expert, but it’s my understanding that our push to have developing countries change their economy to grow only 1 or 2 things (bananas?) so that we can have bananas year round flown in from thousands of miles away has been really harmful to the people in those countries. People who used to grow what they needed to survive now are putting all of their eggs in one basket, so to speak, and are vulnerable to the whims and fluctuations in the banana market. The fact that my choosing to not eat bananas could… Read more »

Anna
Anna
10 years ago

For me, buying at Walmart IS buying local. As a resident of Northwest Arkansas, I see the value that Walmart has added to our community, so I don’t mind dropping money on their inexpensive goods. However, I’m sure that Walmart does not spend nearly as much for community, business, and economic development elsewhere. 🙂

Emily
Emily
10 years ago

I buy from local shops when I can, but depending on your financial situation, it’s not a choice between local vs. chain. Sometimes it’s a choice between local vs. home. Examples: making your own coffee at home, cutting your hair at home, exercising at home, making all meals at home, etc.

Steve
Steve
10 years ago

I live in a big east-coast city where even the “local, family owned” grocery stores have 5 locations. They’re the closest grocery store to me and I usually shop there, but their produce is terrible. If I need to stock up on fruit and veggies I have to go to Giant. I go almost exclusively to local restaurants. I don’t want the same flavor I can get in any city across the country; why live here and not take advantage of what I can only get right here? Every few months I may go to a chain but only because… Read more »

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