Shop Local: Giving New Meaning and Purpose to the Phrase “Twinkie Defense”

If you’ve watched TV, picked up a newspaper or checked Facebook anytime in the past two weeks, you’ve likely been encouraged – or maybe admonished – to “Shop Local” this holiday season.  An idea only a megacorporation could argue against, because, of course, we all want, at least theoretically, to support our local economy, e.g. neighbors and friends.  What’s not to love?  But it’s here where the discussion often ends.  “Why, mommy, why is the sky blue?”  Well, you know.  Because it just is.  Shop local.  Because, well.  You know.  It’s awesome, so just do it already.

I shop all postmodern-y, therefore I am.

Um, guilty.

So.  Although the rally cry resonates in us all – on a cellular level, even, I can see you vibrating – it helps me to brush up this time of year.  There’s this: a study conducted by the Shop Local First Foundation found that for every $100 spent, locally owned independent businesses generate $68 in local economic activity. National chains generate only $43. And out-of-state online sellers don’t collect sales tax – meaning, they do not, in turn, contribute to our communities.  Keeping tax dollars in the local economy facilitates improved public safety, streets and other infrastructure.  (And if this last election taught us anything, it’s that the majority of us are adamantly pro-sewers.)  Further, nonprofits – from human services to, ahem, the arts – are more likely to be supported by local owners than non-local entities.  Mom-and-Pop?  Not surprisingly, they’re way more invested in our community’s welfare and future.  The economy may be global, but your needs are still local.  Read the map (okay, at the mall, yes, but you get my point): You Are Here.

There’s more, of course.  Singular offerings create community identity.  What is it that you love about Marion?  Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Iowa City?  Our chain stores?  Well, yes – I, too, like the abundance and convenience of big boxes; in fact, as soon as I post this, I’m off to Target for pie crust and Chapstick.  But the question is not about like.  Love.  What do you love about Marion?  Love?  Love.

Furthermore, what do others love about your hometown?  Retail diversity creates tourism; tourism creates buzz.  Buzz attracts new residents.  (And new businesses.)  New residents support our – now their – local shops.  Local shops help create a strong sense of place; unique destinations create tourism.  Even more tourism begets even more buzz.  Locate here!  We rock!  It’s the cycle-of-life (or not), and how communities are made.

And consider the practical, both short- and long-term.  Diversity leads to more innovation and consumer choices.  Customer service … exists.  “Small” equals less shipping, especially if you’re buying hand- or locally-made.  Of here means less sprawl, resulting in a smaller loss of natural habitats.  Plus the whole anti-pollution thing (…remember that?  Our options/actions are framed as money-saving over planet-saving), what with less traffic congestion and all.  Again with ideas only a megacorporation could argue against.

Think about it, because, given the recent bankruptcy of Hostess Brands, shopping small could lend new meaning and purpose to the phrase “Twinkie Defense.”  (You may be too young to understand this reference; it’s worth looking up, as the history is tragic and appalling.)  In today’s reality, local businesses often create jobs, while large businesses have a way of cutting folks – and their families – loose.  The takeaway?  Don’t put all your delicious snack cakes into a corporate basket, maybe?  Do not let Dolly Madison Zinger-lessness (yes, Zingers, people) happen to you.  Friends don’t let friends … well, something relevant.  Possibly.  We are all Twinkies, in need of defense.  Ho Hos, round and pure of heart, defending each other.

Think about it, because shopping local foments an uncommon intimacy.  In the great way.

Think about it, because handing your money to someone you know is an influential act … and may well be the last real power we have.

Think about it.  I’m trying to, mostly.  It’s not a perfect system.

Here, I might casually mention that locally-produced art makes a great gift.  Speaking of postmodern, and dropping a hint to my family.

Happy and meaningful holidays to you and yours.

 

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