Think Globally, Eat Locally
Earlier this week, I received in the mail the newsletter from the local independent book store. (I love that place! It even has its own cats.) I was struck by the little blurb on page 3 about supporting local businesses, citing statistics from the recent Andersonville Study about locally-owned versus chain businesses:
Generally speaking, when you spend money at a chain store in your city/town, over half of the money you spend ends up leaving your community. If, on the other hand, you spend money at a locally-owned business, over half of the money you spend stays in your community, thus encouraging the growth of the local economy and perhaps even other local businesses.
Sounds like a pretty simple equation to me. And when your local community is trying to revitalize itself, like mine is (rather successfully, I'm pleased to say), in the face of encroachment by big chains like Wal-Mart, wouldn't you rather spend a little more to support those local businesses and keep them in the area?
I read once something attributed to Bill McKibben that espoused the "one-store" philosophy: wherever possible, support the single store instead of a chain, even if it means higher prices, because the people involved in that single store are more rooted in the community and committed to keeping the money within the community.
I think that's a worthwhile philosophy to apply to eating out as well as to shopping. We have some pretty terrific places to eat here in this town: a French-style bistro that serves locally-grown produce or locally-raised meat, a good Greek restaurant, a Chinese restaurant with a weekly vegetarian buffet that rocks my world, a superb coffee house that beats the pants off of Starbucks any day of the week, a delightful Hungarian pastry shop and coffee house, and a handful of other places that serve good food at reasonable prices. While I don't go out to eat too much (since you know how much I love to cook), I feel very fortunate to have such a good selection at hand to satisfy almost every craving. (Though I do have to find friends to join me for excursions for Indian or Thai or Ethiopian food, but again, those aren't chains... and those friends are always willing.)
The bonus to a number of these locally-owned eateries is that more and more of them are trying to support local growers and bakers in buying the food they prepare or offer. And in light of some of the reading I've done recently, I'm all for supporting those businesses that support local food supplies. And when summer comes, I plan to spend every Saturday morning hiking down to the local farmers' market to support those suppliers directly.
It does make a difference.