Sunday, April 16, 2017

Five Shop Small, Shop Local Insights

I was raised mostly in the Southern Baptist Church with a brief stint in the United Methodist Church. Chad was raised in the Catholic Church. We observe the Lenten Season, the 46 days from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, each year as a time to challenge unhealthy (physical, spiritual or mental) behaviors. Chad gave up sweet snacks like candy, Oreos and ice cream. I gave up shopping at big box stores, behemoth online retailers and chain stores, in an effort to support small maker-owned businesses and locally owned businesses. 

Lite-Brite Egg, Happy Easter!

Here are five insights from my "shop small, shop local" 46 day Lenten experience.

1. I messed up once. We drove from Austin to Houston for a fun weekend. I got a beverage at a Starbucks along the way. My rule for being out of town was to patronize locally owned businesses in whatever town I visited. This was easy to do in Brenham, Texas on the historic downtown square. This was not easy to do along Highway 290 on the way to Houston. With better planning, I could have found a locally owned coffee shop along our travel route. (Hello, Google Maps "nearby" search option!) I am simply not in that habit.

2. I didn't order anything on Amazon. I went to local independent bookstores, BookPeople and Half Price Books when I needed (okay, wanted) a book (okay, three books each trip). I went to locally owned pet stores such as Tomlinson's and Phydeaux & Friends when the pets needed food, a new kitty condo or new chew-toys. I went to locally owned A-Town, Blue Elephant Boutique and Terra Toys when I needed to buy gifts or treat myself.

3. I didn't order any fashion items from Nordstrom. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is for me. I realized that going in person to local boutiques and actually trying on clothes before buying them makes for much more satisfying purchases. I also learned that I don't necessarily need another LA Made V-neck pocket T-shirt. I just need to do laundry more often to keep my current collection ready to wear. (But I really, really love LA Made V-neck pocket T-shirts which are made and designed in the USA!)

4. I realized I don't usually eat at restaurants that aren't locally owned. Eating local was easy-peasy in Austin, Texas and in Brenham, Texas. My favorite local Austin restaurants include Guero's, TacoDeli, Kerbey Lane Cafe, Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Chango's, Manuel's and El Mercado. Chad and I also hit up the hot bar, ready-prep foods case and the salad bar at Wheatsville Co-op a few times a week. We are member-owners of Wheatsville Co-op, and are thankful for this wonderful grocery store.

Lovely Chandeliers at Manuel's Restaurant

5. I realized that I don't like shopping at big box stores. It was easy to avoid Target, Lowe's, Home Depot and all that mess. I went to Zinger Hardware and Shoal Creek Nursery instead. Luckily, I didn't need to purchase any new bedding or towels during Lent, because those items might have been difficult to source from a locally owned store.

Chad at Zinger Hardware. I forced him to pose. Look at that good-sport-grin!

I ordered a few things online directly from artist-makers during Lent. I bought a lovely Fordite sterling silver ring from Siesta Silver Jewelry, a small business jewelry artist. I bought the Austin Adult Coloring Book from the website for local Austin artist, Rebecca Borrelli, because it was sold-out at the shop I visited.

Overall, this experience of shopping small and shopping local for 46 days forced me to pause and consider each purchase. I corrected an irresponsible behavior of automatically ordering things from Amazon and Nordstrom, of not supporting my local economy or makers. I'm not saying I'll never shop chain stores again, but I will try local shops and maker-owned businesses first.

Lite-Brite Chicken, Happy Easter!