Leading a “Small” Lifestyle
How to Spread “Local Love” to Your Neighborhood Beyond Small Business Shopping
I come from a small town that’s less than a square mile. Needless to say with a town that size, I know the area like the back of my hand. In recent years, however, there has been a lot of changes to the area, including an influx and growth in a number of small businesses. So once Small Business Saturday hit this year, my mother and I decided to go on a little shopping spree…
We visited several stores, including ones that we knew and loved, like Soul Trip, and others we had never been to before, like House of Jerky. Since Small Business Saturday precedes the holiday season, I naturally had many gift ideas in mind to buy for friends and family. Of course, I knew which name brand stores and larger corporations would have what I was looking for, but after shopping at the local boutiques, I was pleasantly surprised to find I had crossed everything off my gift list. It amazed me how many products I never knew were available right in my hometown. Everything I got that day were of good quality, a fair price, and 100% more special because it came from a place close to home.
Across the country, there’s been increased awareness of the benefits of shopping small. This article from Our Town America lists seven great reasons to shop small year-round, detailing the economic benefits, such as creating local jobs and funding the community, as well as communal benefits like aiding neighbors, preserving your town, and building its reputation. But supporting small businesses doesn’t only include stores; there’s a lot more small-based, local organizations that have equally great services or products to share, which you should also look for and contribute to. Some of these include:
- Newspapers and blogs
- Bands, music groups, and theaters
- Gyms, fitness centers, or yoga studios
- Arts and crafts workshops
- Museums (particularly niche or historically located sites)
- And of course… restaurants and cafes
What does local love for these entities look like? How exactly can you show your support for these places? Well, next time you need to catch up with the times, grab a copy of or do an online search for your town’s or county’s newspaper (in addition to your major news source like the New York Times). You’ll not only stay up to date with the larger current events, but you’ll also be informed of what’s going on in your own community as well as helping out the journalists in your neighborhood.
Let’s say you’re still surfing the web after you caught up with the news and you come across an article you enjoyed reading. Take a minute to find that article’s source or find the person you wrote it. Perhaps it’s from a small group of scientists, or it’s from an individual’s personal blog (such as the one you’re reading now!). If your intrigued by their content, give them a follow, subscribe to their newsletter, and/or set notifications to receive their next article. This is a simple way to extend your support for the “small” thought leaders out there, even if they’re not in your neighborhood. And if you want to go the extra mile, leave regular comments or a review on their posts.
If you’re someone who likes to go out for fun, look up what kinds of events are happening in your area. If you’re a music or theater lover, see what bands or shows are listed that may entertain or interest you most. For example, if you’re a Jazz enthusiast, consider attending that advertised Jazz coffee house that takes place each Tuesday. If there’s a community or state college nearby, check out what plays or shows the students are putting on. Oftentimes, they’ll feature classic musicals like The Sound of Music or West Side Story. Alternatively, your interest may be piqued at the description of an original show you never heard of. Not only is it a lot cheaper than Broadway, but your contribution and attendance also aids students and up-and-coming artists, who are always eager to put on a performance for a good crowd.
For those who like doing various activities or want to pick up a new hobby, consider joining a crafting and/or woodshop, art workshop, or fitness studio. Oftentimes, these kinds of locally owned establishments offer customized memberships and services for you, which allows you to receive a personalized experience. Furthermore, if you know or get to know the owners, you’ll understand just how much you’re helping out a friend with their livelihood. What’s more special than that? And who knows; you may even get a good deal or some discounts from them because of your close connection. (No guarantees!)
If you’re naturally curious at heart and love learning like myself, I absolutely recommend taking time to learn about the local museums and historical sites in your area. This includes preservation centers and parks as well. These places showcase many unique artifacts and offer distinctive experiences that you may not have known were nearby. For example, I often pass Washington’s Headquarters at Ford Mansion when visiting family and friends, which has received stellar reviews as a historical park. Again, college towns (especially older ones) are another great example of landmarks to visit. Planning a daytrip to one these kinds of parks or museums makes for a unusual date idea or family outing. Besides, it’s a heck of a lot less stress to visit a museum closer to home rather than planning a trip to the Metropolitan Museum (assuming you don’t live right next door to it!).
Last, but certainly not least, local dining is an especially fun activity to partake in. My town, for instance, in addition to the small shops, has a diverse range of restaurants from all different cultures. The selection, therefore, is phenomenal, and the more you visit and eat at these places, the more familiar you become with the staff, which creates a connection that’s both comforting and special. Who doesn’t love having the “I’m a regular” status at their favorite café?
As you can well see, the list of places and ways you can spread local love for your own or nearby community is extensive, can be done year-round, and certainly goes beyond just small business shopping. From memorial parks to family owned and operated diners, there’s no shortage of organizations to discover and visit, which is why it’s beneficial to be mindful and open to all opportunities; read the flyers at the bus stop, pick up a business card on your way out of a coffee shop, or simply take a walk in town and window shop. You’ll never know where your curiosity may lead, and what treasures or experiences you’ll find close to home.
Julia Collucci writes big thoughts about the things she sees on her walks in both local neighborhoods and far-away places. Follow her Medium account Little Walks, Big Thoughts to read more of her articles.