‘Shop local’ not empty message

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

Published:

 

‘Shop local” is a rallying cry small stores usually direct at shoppers, regardless of where those stores buy their own supplies.

But more and more often, businesses that want their customers to stay close to home are practicing what they preach.

Burgerville is the preeminent Clark County-based example. The Vancouver-based chain’s dedication to local and regional foods has won it a following that keeps it competitive even at above-average fast-food prices.

Chuck’s Produce and the Vancouver Food Cooperative likewise buy many of their goods from farms within the metro area.

New Seasons, which opened its first Vancouver store on Wednesday, has followed suit. The company plans to stock its east Vancouver store with 90 products from 35 Washington vendors that it connected to after deciding to come to Clark County.

“When we support local, we strengthen the local food economy,” Lisa Sedlar, chief executive officer of New Seasons Market, told reporter Cami Joner.

Companies that shop locally often also give locally. First Independent Bank has a reputation as a community leader because of its many sponsorships and nonprofit contributions. Sterling Savings Bank has indicated that after it finishes its purchase of First Indy it will follow in the Vancouver institution’s footsteps, though only time will tell what that means for Clark County.

We should heed these companies’ examples by shopping locally ourselves, and supporting businesses that buy from regional suppliers and support area nonprofits.

We may not all agree about what it means to shop “local.” Is a 100-mile radius local enough, or do we have to stop at Clark County’s borders? According to a video produced by the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, shopping in Oregon deprives businesses here of nearly $1 billion in sales annually. But shopping at a Portland-based store is surely better for the region’s economy than buying the same goods online or from a distantly headquartered chain.

Then there’s the question of how far we should go when shopping locally. For many people, the answer comes down to price or convenience. Not everybody can afford organic local eggs. Sometimes it’s easier to order something online than to make time to visit the nearest mom-and-pop shop to buy it.

Spending our dollars close to home has many benefits. It keeps tax dollars here, to fund schools, road construction, and other valuable government functions. It fosters community. And when local merchants profit, they spend their excess here, while international corporations’ profits leave the region to enrich people far away.

I certainly don’t buy every good from a local store, but when I get started with my Christmas shopping I’ll be keeping local businesses and products near the top of my list.

Why are you thankful?

Have you got a story about gratitude that I can feature in my Thanksgiving week column? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Please call or email me using the contact information below.

Courtney Sherwood is The Columbian’s business and features editor. Reach her at 360-735-4561 or courtney.sherwood@columbian.com.