The idea that only one out of every 16 beer drinkers picks up a 10 Barrel or a Deschutes brew is an eye-opening reflection of the tastes and, philosophy of American consumers.
More broadly, Bend, like so many American cities, has a split personality: One relying on big box stores that could as easily exist off the Jersey Turnpike as along Third Avenue; and, another frequenting locally owned shops, each as individual and quirky and charming as its owner (perhaps your neighbor?). That divide—between corporate chains and locally owned stores—is one of the daily and on-going debates shaping and defining the soul (oh, yes, we will go there!) of America.
Sure, in terms of revenue, the big chains win outright, with the bulk of the $50 billion spent this first weekend of holiday shopping going to places like Toys R Us and Target; but, measured by the role played in shaping a city's personality, locally owned businesses win hands down. Think about it: If you wanted to take a visiting out-of-town friend shopping in Bend—and to show off the city's personality—would you take her to Wal-Mart or Hot Box Betty?
In 2010, American Express started a national movement to bring more attention to locally owned businesses, and the important role they play in individual communities. November 30 is Small Business Saturday, when scores of locally owned businesses in Bend—and thousands across the country—will provide specific incentives to holiday shoppers to, well, quite simply, shop locally. (And, yes, there is a certain irony in the "holiday" being the brainchild of and being sponsored by a corporation; a prickly paradox we won't explore here, but urge you-all to talk about amongst yourselves.)
Sure, it is overly simplistic to line up a binary comparison between the virtues of local shopping and the vices of big box chains, like Wal-Mart, Target and Starbucks—like, oh, for example, that big box stores drain revenue from local communities and dump it into corporate headquarters as far away as Minneapolis (Target) and Arkansas (Wal-Mart).
In this issue, we take a few steps into that debate and explore the differences between shopping at chain and locally owned stories. In particular, Bri Brey heads out to explore the challenges small clothing retailers and local designers face, while James Williams pits local cafés and eateries against their cookie-cutter counterparts, and Phil Busse goes out toy shopping.
As for you? We hope that you recognize that your shopping is about more than just getting the items you want and need, but is also an opportunity to vote for one of two types of cities—and that you will vote for a certain type of locally owned, personalized business community. Happy shopping!
Find all our SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY stories HERE.