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Bellingham
Friday, September 25, 2020

Shopping small

By Alexis Edgar and Landon Groves

 

When Paul Hanson and Kelly Evert got married on the Fairhaven Village Green, they bought everything local. Rings, flowers, you name it. Now, as co-owners of Village Books, they’re working to keep that tradition going.

Village Books was one of many businesses this weekend participating in “Shop Small Saturday,” a nationwide event encouraging communities to support local businesses, rather than spending money at national chains on Black Friday. Outside the store, jugglers and gymnasts from the Bellingham Circus Guild performed feats of strength and agility. Santa could be also be found, posing for pictures with local shoppers.

“People are looking for an authentic experience,” Hanson said. “They’re looking for something fun and hoping to see their friends and family. It’s more about the experience than the transaction, which is great.”

The event comes at a time when big-box stores and online retailers threaten local economies and independent stores. Lately, more and more mom and pop stores have been finding themselves outpriced by companies like Walmart, according to a study done by the Journal of Local Labor Economics.

Started in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday has stretched across the nation to let small community businesses shine.

Bellingham proudly participated in the movement to centralize community businesses with a lineup of activities bringing people to historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham.

For every $1 spent at an independent business, 68 cents remain in the local economy. // Photo by Katie Webber.

Outbound and Down, the athletic leisure apparel store in Fairhaven, was just one of the many shops benefitting from the “Shop Small” event.

“Every small business participates but everybody does it a little bit different,” Outbound and Down owner Jenna Wadkins said.

Outbound and Down offered sales on select apparel to mark the event, as well as kicked off their holiday gift-wrapping service.

“We create an intimate shopping experience and we’ll help you find your gifts. We’ll handle wrapping it for you, to make your life easier,” Wadkins said.

For Hanson and Evert, the importance of shopping local surpasses economics. Evert has lived in Bellingham since 1989, and made a pact years ago to never shop online. To this day, she’s stuck to it.

“It feels more civic to shop in your own town, and to see people and communicate with people,” Evert said. “I think it’s wonderful that everyone comes out and enjoys each other.”

But shopping locally goes beyond sentimentality. Local business generates 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than big-box retail, according to a study done in Andersonville, Chicago. The study reported for every $1 spent at an independent business, 68 cents remained in the local economy, compared to 48 cents at big-box retailers and none remained at online retailers.

For every $1 spent at an independent business, 68 cents remain in the local economy. // Photo by Katie Webber.

On Saturday, Nov. 25, the Historic Fairhaven Association scheduled a three-hour visit from Father Christmas, horse-drawn carriage rides through town, circus performances, a holiday street market and musical performers to entice Bellingham residents to visit small businesses in the historic neighborhood.

The annual Fairhaven Christmas Tree Lighting was also scheduled on Small Business Saturday to bring people into small-shop central.

According to American Express, the idea to “Shop Small” helps small neighborhood businesses and communities thrive through residents putting their money back into their communities.

Cody Brocato, training manager at Fairhaven Runners & Walkers, that the majority of consumers go to big-box stores because they have a product. When they shop local, they’re getting a service.

“If you went to any big-box store, you’d be working on your own. Here, we’re fitting you for the shoe, sizing your foot, going every step of the way with you,” Brocato said. “When you shop at small businesses, really that’s what you’re expecting is that level of service.”

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