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Shopping locally: thinking outside the big-box store

November 23, 2011

There is a push, nationwide and in Inyo County, for American consumers to buy locally and buy from small businesses this holiday season, such as this row of locally run businesses on the southeast corner of Main and Line streets in Bishop. Money spent locally, stays local and contributes to the quality of life in the community. Photo by Mike Bodine

Today’s Thanksgiving holiday will be followed across the country by a celebration for the U.S. economy: Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days in America.
With Black Friday slowly becoming Black Thursday – as more big-box and department stores are starting the shopping frenzy Thanksgiving evening – grassroots efforts are under way across the nation to direct consumers’ holiday season spending sprees to where they would be most beneficial.
Nov. 26 will mark the Second Annual Small Business Saturday, when consumers are encouraged to shop locally, at locally owned businesses, to keep their money circulating in the local economy.
Additionally, an anonymous essay titled, “Christmas 2011 – Birth of a New Tradition,” has become an Internet sensation of sorts, popping up in the e-mail inboxes of hundreds of thousands of Americans as it continues to be forwarded to mailing lists near and far.
The essay essentially calls for U.S. consumers to buy products only made in America, and encourages shoppers to do this by buying locally this holiday season. The essay includes numerous gift-giving ideas that support small business, from buying Mom a gift-certificate to a local cleaning service, or Dad an oil change from the local mechanic.
“Christmas is now about caring about us, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams,” the essay states. “And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.”
Local chambers of commerce were asked to suggest a few ideas of where to shop and what to shop for to help the local economy this holiday season.
To promote local shopping and the advantages to local economies when dollars are spent locally, Tawni Thomson, director of the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, provided some information from the American Express Spending and Savings Tracker. According to the Tracker, the average American will spend more than $800 this Christmas.
Thomson gave some tips for “smart shoppers” to consider. Shoppers should be aware of service that may be required post-purchase. Returning an item for repairs or other service is easier at a local purveyor, who also tend to offer higher quality. Sales tax generated locally goes to support local services such as police, public works, parks programs and senior services. Thomson also explained that local businesses give back to the local community improving the quality of life in a small town. Local businesses give to local charities and support school programs and civic clubs. Shopping locally also helps provide jobs for locals who then, in turn, spend that money locally, which helps the town thrive.
Kathleen New of the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce had no shortage of gift ideas to promote the area and support local business, while having a bit of fun in the process.
Her first suggestion was for shoppers to take a visit to the Museum of Lone Pine Film History and gift store that offers plenty of locally inspired and crafted souvenirs, books and, of course, film memorabilia.
The recently published “Inyo Images,” a collection from entries submitted for an annual amateur photographer competition, features all local artists and landscapes. The book, “a great stocking stuffer,” is available at the museum and retails for $8. There is also the recently published book by Inyo County Film Commissioner Chris Langley as well as historical collections of the towns of Bishop and Lone Pine.
The Manzanar Interpretive Center also offers a unique gift shop with reasonably priced items of local interest and of the former internment camp. In Independence, the Eastern California Museum has just received its 2012 calendars featuring local historical photos following this year’s theme, transportation.
New also said memberships are a great way to give a gift that gives all year long, such as to the museum where perks include free movies and discounted film festival tickets.
Gift certificates are a great way to keep money local, too, New said. A gift certificate to Furnace Creek in Death Valley is a good way to stay warm this winter too, she said. Shoppers might also consider a gift certificate to a local motel, for a vacation in town, or for a friend or family member that visits often.
Restaurant gift certificates are always a great idea too, New said, adding that the Seasons Restaurant is fantastic. And, there are sports stores, from Elevation for climbers to High Sierra Outfitters for anglers.
She added there is plenty to do in the south end of the county that is a perfect and toasty get-away during the Eastside winter doldrums. She recommended Tecopa Hot Springs and the Resort, a trip out to China Ranch for famous date shakes, and of course a gas gift card is always a welcome gift.
New said a hot gift this year would be tickets to the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce Death Valley Days and mixer, Jan. 30 through Feb. 1. The tickets include a screening of a new Death Valley movie as well as tickets to the Amargosa Opera House. The opera house is entering its 45th season with a 90-year-old Marta Becket to perform on Dec. 9.
Both Lone Pine and Bishop also have golf courses that offer gift certificates.
Thomson also had a list of local suggestions.
Gift certificates or gift cards to local eateries are a great idea, she said.
“Teenagers really appreciate having gift cards so they can eat lunch at Bar-B-Que Bill’s, McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Denny’s, Pizza Factory and other places,” Thomson said in an e-mail.
“Parents like this idea as well, so they don’t have to keep forking over cash for lunch money,” she added.
Coffee house gift certificates make great gifts for coworkers.
Like New, Thomson said everyone appreciates a free meal. “Spouses and special friends would always appreciate gift certificates for a nice dinner out at Yamatani, Thai Thai, Imperial Gourmet, La Casita or Amigos.”
Thomson said for a “really romantic holiday gift,” shoppers might consider buying a “getaway” to the Old House & Inn at Benton Hot Springs or Convict Lake Resort.
Gift certificates are just a great idea, Thomson said. “Anne Marie’s for the one who loves to cook. Whiskey Creek is great because you can use a certificate for food, drink or cool home décor. Dwayne’s Friendly Pharmacy is another great choice – so much more than a drugstore.”
Bishop has plenty of specialty stores, she noted. For the do-it-yourselfer, there is High Country Lumber or Manor True Value. Wilson’s Eastside Sports, Sage to Summit or Gear Exchange are great places to shop for outdoors enthusiasts, as are Aerohead Cycles and Mac’s Sporting Goods.
“For the gardener, give a gift certificate to Bishop Nursery or Chalfant Big Trees,” Thomson suggested.
Gift baskets loaded with local treats is a great idea for a local or friends and family out of town to show off Bishop’s fare. This could include baked goodies from Schat’s and Great Basin, coffee from Black Sheep or Bishop Bean, beef jerky from Meadow Farms, a book with a local topic and maybe a T-shirt, mug or magnet from Main Street Trading Company or the Bishop Chamber of Commerce.
There are also plenty of great artists working in many mediums from photography to pottery to jewelry up and down the valley.
Both chambers encourage folks to take a look at local stores, and see what they have to offer before checking the Internet or out-of-town for the best prices. There are plenty of advantages to shopping locally, New and Thomson said.
The Monday following Thanksgiving weekend has been known, unofficially, as Cyber Monday – when consumers are lured to the Internet for online shopping.
Efforts are under way, at least by Canada’s Adbusters magazine, to declare Monday “Buy Nothing Day” as part of its “Curb Your Consumerism” campaign.

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