Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thinking 3/50 365 Days a Year

Shop local. It's more than the latest internet buzzwords. It could mean the difference between survival or death for local businesses.

Let's face it: It's usually not too difficult to find a parking spot on Main Street in small-town Kansas. By contrast, back in the early 20th century, Main Streets provided the hub of social and business activity on Saturday nights as farm families loaded up the car and came to town.
The world is different today. We're more prone to "like" something one of our "friends" said on Facebook than to make plans to meet them for a treat at the soda fountain or share a tub of popcorn at a Saturday movie. For many, the big box store in the town 30 or 40 miles away is the place to stock up on paper goods or groceries. A click of a button on a website means that a store will deliver your every want and need to your own front door.

We say we want to shop local. But do we choose to do it enough?

On one of our trips to visit Brent in Morehead, Kentucky, I picked up a bright red flier that said, "Love your local. uniquely morehead (ky) + rowan county"
Link to uniquely morehead

When I got home, I looked looked up Uniquely Morehead's website. In part, it said:
We LOVE our great town nestled in the hills of East Kentucky, and we need to STOP and think of what we can do to keep it uniquely ours.  From our spending habits to our civic engagement, we need to be intentional about keeping Morehead unique. 

What can you do to help us remain Uniquely Morehead? It’s pretty simple, really. Be a wise consumer – just patronize independent, locally-owned businesses wherever and whenever possible, and encourage others to do the same.

Going out for coffee? Check out our local coffee shop or visit our local bakery to satisfy your sweet tooth. Need a gift for a friend’s birthday? We suggest a trip to one of our great local gifts, novelty shops, or better yet purchase a one-of-a-kind from a local artist. Looking for a good restaurant? Make a little extra effort to try one of our local restaurants or the seasonal farmers markets. There are locally-owned options for just about anything you can find at a chain store, so just take a moment to think before you open your wallet.
We ate at a cute little Main Street restaurant, All Seasons Cafe, in a refurbished old house. Nestled in with the menu selections, there was a page thanking people for shopping there. It detailed 10 ways that the decision to patronize at a locally-owned business made a difference. Here are just a few:
1. You kept dollars in our economy. For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $68 will stay in the community. What happens when you spend that same $100 at a national chain? Only $43 stays in the community.

2. You embraced what makes us unique. You wouldn't want your house to look like everyone else's in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?

5. You nurtured community. We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.

10. You made us a destination. The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors and guests. This benefits everyone. 
Does it really make any difference whether I spend the bulk of my grocery dollars at Wal-Mart or at my local Paul's Grocery?
Does it matter if I buy paper goods at Paul's or at Stafford Mercantile instead of stocking up in Hutchinson? Randy and I think it does.

As I wrote last year, even something as mundane as toilet paper can make a huge impact on the success or failure of our small-town businesses.
I recently read about a Central Kansas county that began a program called Buy Harvey. Businesses in Newton and Harvey County were inspired by Cinda Baxter, founder of the 3/50 Project. During a presentation in Newton, Baxter asked small business owners what would happen if people picked three locally-owned businesses each month and spent $50 at those businesses. A group of small local businesses started a grassroots movement called Buy Harvey that urges consumers to shop local and encourages small businesses to work together to promote their services.

We should be thinking 3/50 365 days a year. 
Photo: Shop Small Morehead!  Today we've got 20% Off and 30% Off Deals at our Florist!   Refreshments served!   Call 606-784-1007 for more information! @allseasonsrocks

Instead of being like Chicken Little and yelling, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling," these businesses are doing something to help themselves. I believe the possibilities could be as vast as the big, blue Kansas sky if businesses worked together and small-town citizens made a commitment to buy locally first.
Admittedly, smaller storefronts don't always have every single item you need. I'm not saying that you can never shop in a Wal-Mart or Target again. I shop in those stores, too. I just think it's time to look at our small towns for all the pluses instead of concentrating on the negatives.
Admittedly, Main Street Stafford isn't as bustling as it was in the early 1900s or during the oil boom of the 1940s. But there are businesses that have been here for the long haul and some new ones that complement them. (I started to list local businesses and then decided that was a formula for leaving people out. Our little town has restaurants, a coffee shop, a bank, a flower and gift shop, farmers cooperative and many other businesses that contribute to a good quality of life for its citizens and neighbors.) We are fortunate to still have Stafford District Hospital and a rest home meeting health care needs in our hometown.

 Our Stafford USD 349 continues to offer quality education to our community's youth, including adding innovative programs like the Stafford Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) Center. Students start their own business and become business owners through this program.

Our high school has added a new Culinary Arts and Management program this year, cooperating with local restaurants, Stafford County Flour Mills at Hudson and others in the private sector. Just this semester, the program began using the new commercial kitchen now housed in the the former Family and Consumer classroom. Vo-ag students have built a greenhouse on school property. It just goes to show that you don't have to be a big, metropolitan school to offer innovative, hands-on programs.

We've had more exciting news on Main Street. For the past several years, the Ritz Theater has been showing movies two weekends a month. The City of Stafford recently made the commitment to upgrade to a digital projector, after learning that the movie industry would not make new movies in the film format any longer. Soon, the Ritz will be able to show first-run movies almost as quickly as the big-town theaters can, which the city hopes will bring additional visitors to Stafford.
Our high school offers a program for students interested in entrepreneurship. It is the Stafford Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) Center. Students start their own business and become business owners through this program. - See more at: http://kansasteachingjobs.com/index.php?p=funct.search.job&jobTitle=FACS+Teacher%3A++Emphasis+on+Culinary+Arts+Career+Strand.&jobHash=fe1364e93480524&employerHash=c9ba9750eada3cf#sthash.qsnRuirk.dpuf
Our high school offers a program for students interested in entrepreneurship. It is the Stafford Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) Center. Students start their own business and become business owners through this program. - See more at: http://kansasteachingjobs.com/index.php?p=funct.search.job&jobTitle=FACS+Teacher%3A++Emphasis+on+Culinary+Arts+Career+Strand.&jobHash=fe1364e93480524&employerHash=c9ba9750eada3cf#sthash.qsnRuirk.dpufCenter, a greenhouse and the latest in technology.  We have exciting news on Main Street Stafford. For several years, the Ritz Theater has shown movies two weekends a month. The City of Stafford has made the decision to upgrade to a digital projector.

For a sesquicentennial cake I made a few years ago, I took photos of Stafford's version of the old Burma Shave roadside signs and included them in my cake display.
Just in case you can't read them: If our road signs ... Catch your eye ... Smile awhile
And stop to buy ... Stafford Main Street ... Gateway to Quivira NWR. 

The survival of small town America depends upon all of us. We should make intentional decisions to shop at local stores and patronize local businesses when we can. We could help bolster other communities by taking day trips and visiting small, rural towns, spending a little money at a local restaurant and shopping in a locally-owned store while there.

We can all be part of the solution. The Kansas Sampler Foundation, based in Inman, has numerous programs to support small town Kansas, including the Kansas Explorers Club.  It's another great resource to see and appreciate what Kansas has to offer.

If you'd like, leave me a comment about your favorite Kansas place or your favorite local business. (If you don't live in Kansas, share something from your area.) Share the positives! 


  1. Great post, another I think I will need to share and will definitely use or direct people to this post.

  2. We try to shop local as much as possible. We only have 1 teeny tiny grocery store that is good for milk, bread and eggs. And the emergency bag of candy or box of donuts. Not only is it good for the local economy, it saves a 150 mile round trip to the city.

    1. It sounds like you really need to plan your trips! We aren't that far from a bigger town, but we really do try to spend the bulk of our grocery dollars locally.