Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The benefits of shopping locally

Last Friday our family had dinner at a new restaurant in downtown Downers Grove called the 2 Toots Steam Whistle Grill. It's right across from the train tracks, so you can watch trains go by, and the restaurant is thus themed, with a model train that delivers your burgers and fries to your booth. Dessert was a cupcake with a train whistle on top. Our five-year-old loved it. And it had good food and excellent customer service.

I mention this because we've tried to be intentional about going to locally owned, mom-and-pop restaurants and stores. Not only is the customer service more personal, it is far more likely that the owners and workers are going to be invested in the local community. I saw some statistics awhile back pointing out that 45-58% of dollars spent at a local independent store stay in the local community, while this is only true of 13-14% of dollars spent at national chains and big-box stores.

Here's a snippet from a recent article in Publishers Weekly about supporting local independent bookstores:

A study in Austin, Tex., revealed that more than three times the amount of money stayed in a town when it was spent at the local bookstore as opposed to a chain. Studies in Illinois and Maine back up this finding.

But there are many other reasons to support local businesses. Stores in downtowns—as many locally owned, independent businesses are—tend to be cheaper for their towns; they use fewer public goods and therefore fewer tax dollars. For instance, a study in Barnstable, Mass., found that a big box retailer "generated" a net deficit to the town of $468 per 1,000 square feet, whereas a specialty retailer produced a net annual return of $326 per 1,000 square feet.

Locally owned businesses draw tourists, too. Vermont's director of the department of tourism told me that a recent survey of tourists indicated that one of the primary reasons they come here is because of its distinctiveness. They don't want to shop at the same stores they have back home.

Also worthy of note is that small businesses give more to nonprofits than big businesses do. In fact, small businesses give more than twice as much per employee as large firms do.

1 comment:

Brian and Carie Anne said...

The toy store on the corner of Main and Curtiss has the most unique children's gifts. Also, I love Lucky boutique east of Main on Curtiss. If you want a good book recommendation, try Anderson's on Main, they give the type of service the big box stores never can. And the best meat in the burbs is at Chuck's - even if it is a little pricier. Downtown Downers Grove is one of the most livable towns in the burbs with the stores, eateries, pharmacy, grocery, theater, library, coffee shops, dry cleaner and more. Buying local, helps preserve our community for years to come!