Sunday, May 10, 2009

Saving the Brick & Mortars

Cricket McRaeLast year one of Colorado's premier mystery book stores, High Crimes, closed the doors of their shop in Boulder. Unlike many of the smaller independents that have disappeared, they transferred their business to the Internet. Now High Crimes is an online indie that still specializes in mysteries. They even continue to host the occasional author signing at a local coffee house.

Of course, we all know of independent book stores that are either in danger or have gone out of business. Times are hard and the major chains and Amazon are not only accessible but offer discounts. And book stores aren't the only ones in jeopardy; local businesses of all types face increasing odds as the recession wears away at them and their customers alike.

The 3/50 Project is a nationwide effort to stem the flow of dollars out of our local economies. Now, I'm not a fan of the idea that we need to all run out and spend a bunch of money to stimulate the economy. In fact, I get a bit riled every time I hear it suggested. However, we all need to buy some stuff, don't we? Might as well spend our money at home.

A couple of tidbits from the project's website:

"If just half the employed U.S. population spent $50 each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate more than 42.6 billion in revenue."


"For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 remains here. Spend it online and nothing comes home."

The project has gone viral, and has been covered in a number of newspapers and blogs. I'm doing it again here because it's important, and it's something we can participate in as individuals. Other organizations that emphasize local buying are the American Independent Business Alliance, Indiebound, and the Business Alliance for Living Local Economies.

Check these folks out -- and spend your money in a way that not only benefits you, but your entire community.


Jessica Lourey said...

Beautifully said, Cricket. I also balk when I'm told I have to spend money to save the economy--it seems counterintuitive--but you're right that we all do spend money. We might as well spend it in a way that helps our communities. Although buying locally and through independents may cost more up front, you're paying the true cost and reap more rewards than simply getting what you paid for.

I compare it to buying organic--organic food is more expensive because you're paying the upfront costs all right there. With unsustainably-grown food, it's cheaper up front, but you have environmental and health care costs that you have to pay down the line.

Thanks for sharing this important information!

G.M. Malliet said...

When the stores close (indies *and* chains), I miss having a place to browse on an idle Sunday afternoon. The online experience can't replace that.

Sometimes I think we are just voices crying in the wilderness, tho.

Related subject: What is really getting me down also is the struggle of newspapers to survive. I really don't want to read stuff online. My local Post is a shade of its former self. Meanwhile, the layoffs continue.

Cricket McRae said...

Jess, I agree the cost can be a little higher up front if you buy locally, but as you said, it's really about overall -- and long term -- value. Buying more locally, including food, I take less for granted, waste less, and think more about my purchases, so I'm probably not spending much, if any, more.

Gin, I'm also very saddened by the closing of so many newspapers. Recently we lost the Rocky Mountain News here in Denver, and my old paper, the Seattle Post Intelligencer just went online as well. Not only do I hate the layoffs and reading my news online, much of the reporting has become superficial.

Alan Orloff said...

True, Cricket.

Shopping locally is a good strategy. It's better for the environment, too.

I'm also bumming about the loss of newspapers.

I keep trying to do the crossword puzzle on-line, but I keep messing up my laptop's screen with pencil smudges.

Cricket McRae said...

Alan, you should try using a Sharpie.

G.M. Malliet said...

This all reminds me of a very bad dumb-blonde joke:

Q: How do you tell a blonde has been using the computer?
A: There's White-Out on the screen.

I am blonde-ish so I figure it's ok for me to tell this joke. Please direct any complaints to Alan.