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Shopping and Shipping Local

More local small businesses are offering products online

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The season of giving is coming up and before that comes the dreaded season of shopping. A lot of people's Amazon carts are probably filling up with all the gifts they plan to give to friends and families this holiday season, but local retailers believe there's a better way. Life may be a jungle, but that doesn't mean you have to support Amazon.

Local businesses are cashing in on home delivery of their products, setting up alternatives to online shopping goliaths. Some shops have been offering home delivery for years, while others pivoted during COVID shutdowns that shut down a lot of retail stores in 2020.

Vanilla Urban Threads will soon hold its 16th anniversary. Its owner, April Lawyer, said she's wanted to open an online shop for years and finally had the opportunity to when COVID shut down retail. - JACK HARVEL
  • Jack Harvel
  • Vanilla Urban Threads will soon hold its 16th anniversary. Its owner, April Lawyer, said she's wanted to open an online shop for years and finally had the opportunity to when COVID shut down retail.

"The brick-and-mortar store was keeping me busy enough that it was kind of a pipe dream, I just didn't have time to do. And then when COVID happened, it was sort of like, OK, this is the time," said April Lawyer, owner of Vanilla Urban Threads, a boutique in Bend that offers fashionable streetwear inspired by surf, skate and snow culture. "We quickly kind of pulled a website together and started trying to service the community with it, it wasn't originally to ship as much as it was more offering something to the community."

During the pandemic, most of the online orders were local, but now Lawyer said she gets a lot of orders from around the state. Most of Lawyer's business still comes into the store, but the online shopping can serve as a great entry point for people who don't know what to expect in the store.

"Our website is just a small cross section of what we actually have in the store, I'd say it probably only represents, 5 to 10%, but it's a good cross section, and it allows people to see what we're all about," Lawyer said. "Then for tourists that come to visit us they can shop remotely and be able to get a little piece of Vanilla."

Getting the online store up and running did have its challenges, mostly learning how to manage inventory between the online and brick-and-mortar stores. Other stores, like Powder House Ski & Snowboard, will ship to meet customer needs but doesn't have an online shop.

Smaller local businesses are getting in the online shopping game, creating a viable alternative to Amazon. - ELVERT BARNES VIA FLIC
  • Elvert Barnes via Flic
  • Smaller local businesses are getting in the online shopping game, creating a viable alternative to Amazon.

"Most of our shopping is pretty much done locally. However, being that it's skiing and snowboarding, winter sports, we have a lot of parents and grandparents who buy for their children," said Shanda McGee, owner of Powder House. "If it's something they're wanting to order, we can have it shipped directly from our manufacturers to the customer. So, it kind of takes out that extra step of shipping to us and then getting to the customer itself."

Skiers and snowboarders can be particular about their gear, so a lot of special orders are finding the perfect fit for the individual.

"We do a lot of custom boot fitting, and on that end of it, where we're doing a lot of special orders for customers for specific boots that maybe we don't stock but we know the right boot for a customer," McGee said. "The store is only so big; we can only carry so much, you can't have everything."

Powder House also utilizes shipping for gift cards, especially for out-of-state buyers to local recipients.

"We do have people trying to buy gifts for other people a lot of times and instead of just grabbing something they get a gift card," McGee said. "If family members on the East Coast want to buy something for someone local, they can call up and just get a gift card; the person can pick it up in our shop or we can just mail a little card to that person, whether they be in Bend or out of city."

There's never been a better time to be a shut-in shopper, especially for people who prefer to shop local. So before you hit the checkout button on Amazon, make sure you check in with local stores.

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...

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