Thursday, December 13, 2018

Shop Local - Stay Local

Shop Local - Stay 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, including Stafford.
Stafford's Main Street looks different than it did in this photo from 1955 (found in Stafford's Centennial book, Crossroads of Time: 1885-1985).

By contrast, back in the early- to mid-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.

During the past three months, the City of Stafford and the Stafford Chamber of Commerce asked people to Shop Local - Stay Local. People could keep receipts and a tally of monies spent at local businesses. Then, there was a drawing for prizes - for everything from gift certificates at local businesses to a credit for electricity to a summer pass for the new swimming pool. (I won one of those passes. I am going to see if I can gift it to a Stafford youngster who might enjoy using it!)

On the little leaflet in which we collected our local receipts, it said this:
If 100 families within Stafford spent an additional $75 locally per month, that would inject more than $90,000 annually into the local economy. Shop Local - Stay Local
We are doing our part - especially at the grocery store, farmers' co-op, lumber yard and auto parts store.

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?
Before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, I saw an editorial in The Salina Journal. Here's part of that column:
We'll be spending money. A lot of money. According to the National Retail Federation, we’ll shell out $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion total this holiday season. According to the federation, each shopper will spend about $1,007.24 apiece.Make sure, though, when you plan out that spending, that you think about what companies benefit. Will you be funneling your dollars to Amazon or a big box retailer? Or will you be supporting local businesses?

That decision makes a difference. ... It makes a difference to the city and state economy, which benefit directly from you keeping your dollars in the community. It makes a difference to businesses, many of which work mightily to survive in a shifting retail marketplace. 

Think about it this way: Big online retails extract capital from cities. With few exceptions, we don't see that money again. Local retailers put that money straight back into the local economy.
Brent's first job out of grad school was at Morehead State University in Kentucky. Morehead had a vibrant "shop local" initiative. At one of their local eateries, tucked alongside the menu, 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's Simply Overstock store instead of stocking up in Hutchinson? Randy and I think it does. Even something as mundane as toilet paper can make a huge impact on the success or failure of our small-town businesses. (Click on the link for more details.)

Instead of being like Chicken Little and yelling, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling," we need to be part of the solution. 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, and I keep a running Hutchinson shopping list for ingredients and other items I can't buy locally. 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 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.
We have the Ritz Theatre showing first-run movies each weekend. Several years ago, the city upgraded the sound system to digital.

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 added a Culinary Arts and Management program several years ago, cooperating with local restaurants, Stafford County Flour Mills at Hudson and others in the private sector. Vo-ag students have built a greenhouse on school property and they're even trying to impact world hunger. Technical career education is a focus for our school district. It just goes to show that you don't have to be a big, metropolitan school to offer innovative, hands-on programs.
Sunset, July 15, 2016
Shop Local - Stay Local:  It's a message that should resonate during this holiday season ... and every other day of the year. It has to ... if we want to keep our rural communities from becoming ghost towns.


  1. You are so right Kim. Not only for your small rural towns but for Australia too. Our small suburban shopping Centres are also suffering.
    My favourite hiking clothing store has gone on-line, closing and incredible number of stores across Australia. It might mean that in the not to distant future, I will be hiking naked!

    1. Oh my! Well, that would certainly make a whole different kind of blog - ha!

      Yes, the closest "regional" town to us has had several closings in the past few years, too, so our tiny towns aren't the only ones suffering. It's up to us all to make the difference, I believe.