I saw the following pitch on the Afikomen Judaica home page the other day.
Think about which three independently owned businesses you’d miss most if they were gone. Stop in & say hello. Pick up a little something that will make someone smile. Your contribution is what keeps those businesses around.
If half of the employed U.S. population spent $50 each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate an estimated $42.6 billion of revenue. For every $100 spent in independently owned businesses, $68 returns to the local economy. Spend it online and nothing comes home.
Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy.
Living on a limited budget I often struggle with how to finish the month financially and support local businesses and the philanthropy I believe in. The theme of big business encroachment is an integral theme of my novel, The Accidental Activist and is based on a true story involving McDonald’s.
I want to support local business. My father was a shopkeeper and the bespoke tailor of his community. However I do think that there needs to be something reciprocal, that our ideology should not be taken for granted. The local independently owned business might not be able to compete over price, but I think I would be willing to spend a bit more for similar or better quality/service/experience.
Here’s an example. I enjoy coffee from Peets and (yes) Starbucks. I enjoy the product (choosing exactly what I want), the clean environment (bathrooms), and the ambiance (good music). I seem to always receive cheerful service and, if the coffee doesn’t taste right, quick no-nonsense redress.
I will support a local coffee shop before entering either of the aforementioned chains if they can reach the same standard. I am even willing to pay a bit more, but often there is a problem with the quality of the experience in one of the factors listed above. For the record, I love Java on Ocean in Ingleside (SF) and Local123 in Berkeley.
Nothing can make the experience worse than the consumer feeling that s/he is being taken for granted. I have read a lot of Starbucks literature and am impressed with their customer-driven culture. I need to feel this from the local competition. I have recently had two negative experiences in small bookstores. It is frustrating. I could easily have purchased the books I sought on Amazon quicker, more efficiently, and cheaper, but I chose the local option.
It is not enough to procure my, or anyone else’s, business just because you are small, local and independent. I need to feel the love. When I do, I will come back for more without a second thought. Is there a future for the independently owned business?
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com