Imagine with me. You’re feeling fabulous in your brand new outfit as you walk into the first day of school. Then it happens… You look up, and standing across the atrium is your best friend in THE EXACT SAME OUTFIT. The heat creeps up your face as you freeze and think, “I’m not original at all!” You duck your head in embarassment and try to dodge away. Right at that moment your other friends point and call out, “look, they’re matching!” They gather you together as you both pretend like you think it’s funny, pose for a photo, and secretly vow to yourself that you will never wear that outfit again!
I grew up in rural Minnesota. It was a great experience, but when it came to shopping, my only options were chain stores. I still burn with embarrassment when I think back on the moments when I was dressed in the same outfit as my friends. We all shopped at the same few stores in town. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate small business as an alternative to chain. One of the things I love about small business is that it returns a sense of individualism to the shopper. Each store only has so many products, therefore they are sifting through their inventory quicker, and only so many people have each item. The products in each shop are also hand picked with passion. Most small business owners opened their shop because of a love for what they are selling.
I decided to write this blog post because J. Arthur’s Coffee of Roseville, MN recently announced that they might be closing their doors. They opened in 2008 as a private coffee shop meant to serve adults with disabilities through the company ACR Homes. In 2011 they opened their doors to the public and put an emphasis on artisan coffee with high quality products. They quickly became “the spot” for professionals who work remotely, and students from nearby Universities who want a great place to study.
It was announced to the public they would be closing in June of 2016. A few days later they let us know that they would try and last through the summer instead. I feel an immense responsibility to help save this coffee shop, as well as the other potential small businesses on the verge of closing. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Starbucks, but I can’t imagine losing this staple in the community. By supporting them, you aren’t just keeping one business afloat, but businesses from all over the Twin Cities. They source their beans from local roasters Dogwood, UP, and Roastery 7, and their tea from Tea Source. I encourage you, if you’ve been meaning to stop by J. Arthur’s, do it now to show them that you want them to stick around!
Nobody wants these beloved local businesses to close, but we see it happen everyday! So, what’s the deal?
We live in a culture based on convenience. Since it’s built into the culture around us, you don’t notice it until, well, you notice it. Now that I have “seen the light”, I’ve been challenging myself to live differently. In relation to shopping, this culture of convenience means that the businesses with the best locations and bargains win. That unfortunately means that unless we change our mindset, the chain retailers will win every time. A local business owner doesn’t have the funds to purchase the most convenient location. They don’t have the budget for buyers who can research the best products to put in the stores. They certainly can’t afford giant marketing campaigns, and they can’t and won’t start producing their products in mass quantity to keep the cost per item down.
What the locally owned shops have is far greater; quality, passion, ambiance, friendliness, and individualism.
Just this morning we went out for breakfast at an amazing local restaurant (shout out to L’Etoile Du Nord). The waitress took the time to ask us if we lived in town and went on ask and memorize each of our names. After we paid the bill, she said that she looked forward to seeing us the next time we came in, and she actually meant it. There was no rushing us out the door to fill another seat. There was no strange “pay at the table with an electronic device” option. We had great food and genuine human interaction. We loved it.
So what I want to ask is this: Do we want convenience to dictate our lives? Especially so, when it comes to supporting the local businesses in our towns?
I say no! So here’s my challenge: Choose a local store over a chain store for at least one purchase per month and see what happens. We not only have a responsibility to keep them going, but the more we shop at the locally owned stores, the more we will all realize what they actually have to offer us.
Start thinking about the places in your town where you can shop local and enjoy!