This is a phrase that you will inevitably see everywhere you look during this now-upon-us holiday season. You’ve been told repeatedly to “Shop Local” and “Support local businesses” for years because, let’s be honest, it’s a trendy maxim – one that can be bundled easily into the same camp as eating more kale.
The problem with pop philosophy trends is that the actual meaning behind the message often gets lost in the constant mindless repeating of a phrase. “Shop Local. Shop Local. Shop Local.” Okay… You want me to shop local, but why? Is there any concrete reason shopping locally is better than purchasing from chain retailers? Is this trend not just a tactic to help a few struggling businesses from going under while morally validating the do-gooders who keep those businesses’ doors open? Is this whole “Shop Local” movement not just an exercise in delusional self-edification at the expense of established franchised businesses and the real economy???
Those are all valid concerns that the two-word instruction, “Shop Local”, don’t address. In fact, many proponents of that simple maxim either haven’t considered those questions or simply ignore them out of fear of the answers. The simple reason for many people to support local businesses is only that it feels good – like the right thing to do. For just as many others shopping locally is a political action – an act of voting with one’s checkbook as an act of defiance against a world of corporate giants.
But what if those reasons don’t fit your emotional/philosophical/political disposition? After all, money is money, and a job is a job. Whether those things exist in a mom-and-pop diner or at a giant chain retailer, human beings are still able to make a living from them. If money is exchanged and people are able to earn an income either way, why is it that local businesses are somehow considered inherently better?
The answer, friends, is that local businesses aren’t necessarily better. The reason we ask you to “Shop Local” is that local businesses are DIFFERENT.
Difference is the one characteristic that allows the very human concept of localness to exist. The fact that we have these businesses and no other city is able to have them is what makes our place in the world unique and worthy of visiting. In any town in America right now a person can bite into the same exact Burger King burger as every other town, but the only place in the world a person can have a medium-rare Bellow the Radar burger with a side of giant, fresh onion rings is Huntsville, Alabama. One can order a Budweiser at just about any bar on earth, but the only place you can sip a Straight to Ale Lily Flagg Milk Stout while sitting feet away from where that beer was just brewed is Huntsville, Alabama. And when people return home after visiting our city, they don’t tell their friends about the loaf of Wonder Bread they bought at Kroger. They describe just how much they wish they could taste another loaf of cranberry walnut Fred Bread at our Green Street Market.
The fact is that Huntsville is much, much more than just the “Rocket City”. The Saturn V rocket will indelibly be stamped in the minds of anyone who visits our city, but that image alone isn’t enough for visitors to fall in love with this place, tell everyone they know about this place, or want to relocate here and become part of our community. What makes our specific community attractive is the unique qualities and assets we contain that we alone can offer.
Fortunately Huntsville is already on the fast track to becoming one of the most distinctive and enjoyable local communities in America. We already have vibrant, thriving small businesses and local restaurants. We have a craft brewery scene that exceeds all others. And truly, no other city in America offers anything like Lowe Mill and the dozens of studios, eateries, and small businesses we have packed into this huge, beautiful old building.
We obviously want you to “Shop Local” this holiday season and support local businesses year-round. Just understand that we don’t ask you to do this to help us stay in business, nor to stick it to “the man”. Shopping locally isn’t a charity expense, friends, nor a moral duty. It’s not a privilege of the cultural elite, or a luxury that only the upper class can afford. Shopping locally is just the simplest way to ensure that your community experience is beautifully distinctive from all others. It’s the simplest way to make sure that Huntsville is a place no person could ever forget.
If you care about this idea, please share this article with a description of some of your favorite local businesses. Thanks for reading.