I read a blog post today from one of my all-time favorite writers. She is a young female living in small-town Alabama and I think she is fabulous. Fabulous mom. Fabulous wife. Fabulous seamstress. I have a small girl crush on her. Her website is http://www.e-tells-tales.com/ and you should check her out! Especially this post.
I will admit it--I am guilty of shopping at bix box stores more than I should. The convenient hours, online orders, good return policies, and low prices make it difficult to look elsewhere. But I try to buy from local mom-and-pop stores as much as I can (or my budget allows) because I realize just what these guys add to a community.
Growing up in a small town, I know first-hand what the benefits can be from buying local. The family-owned and operated IGA in Opp, AL employed my grandfather for God only knows how long. He was everything from the butcher to the bag boy, and his favorite thing about his job was that his boss let him take a late lunch so he could scoot home to watch Days of Our Lives.
My family used the same pharmacist for as long as I can remember. Greg Vaughn at T & C Pharmacy would stay late or open early to help out someone in need. Try getting CVS or RiteAid to do that. Mr. Sumblin at the gas station would even let me put my gas on credit so my dad could come pay the bill. And thank God Mrs. Stephanie at Body Conscious still lets me charge it to mom! There are countless other times I can remember a free bag of boiled peanuts at the bait shop or some other little private "thank you" that can only come from someone who considers you (or your family) more than a customer.
My mother-in-law is an artist. She makes all kinds of things from paintings to jewelry to gift tags. Her supplies are expensive, but her time and talent is worth even more. I see her struggle through long days at the gallery dealing with people who think their landscape canvas from Kirkland's truly is a showstopper.
And then they realize their best friend has the same one in her bedroom. And her sister-in-law has a smaller version in the hallway. It becomes not quite so cool when everyone on the block has the same decor.
As someone who sells advertising in a rough economy, I hear stories all the time from these local storeowners who are literally being driven out of business because Walmart or Hobby Lobby can beat their prices. It's sad because those big stores aren't the ones with kids in the local schools or sitting next to you in church on Sunday morning. They are also not making the advertising decisions, but there's no need for you to have to listen to my sob story. :) Those CEOS are traveling on corporate jets and using an AmEx Black card. They could give two hoots and damn about whether or not 'lil Johnny sells enough popcorn to go to summer camp.
It's unrealistic to say never shop at Walmart again. Sometimes there's more month at the end of the money, and we ALL need to get a deal on some bacon. But shop local when you can, whether it's a produce stand or a father's day gift. Give a handmade, one-of-a-kind pretty that might turn into a family heirloom.
Of course I didn't tell my tale as well as E does, but her post really got me thinking. This is something that means a lot to me, and now I hope maybe it inspired you to drive on past Home Depot and try out your local hardware store. I think if we all make a conscious decision to support local businesses as much as possible we could all benefit. It means more than you think.
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