The other day, walking around downtown, I came upon these small flyers about something called “the 3/50 project.” At the top of the flyers it reads “Save your local economy… three stores at a time.” (Italics theirs.) (I always wanted to write that.) The project’s motto is “Saving the brick and mortars our nation is built on.”
Living in Western Massachusetts, where we’re constantly urged to “be a local hero,” I’m not unfamiliar with the adage of shopping locally, and the economic and ecological reasons for doing so. But this flyer indicated an effort, a group, that was organizing the effort.
Pick 3 independently-owned businesses in your area. Dedicate yourself to supporting their bottom line. Try to spend at least $50 each month in each store/restaurant/whatever. “If just half the employed U.S. population spent $50 dollars each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.” Why do this? (Other than being nice and neighborly, of course.) “For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures.”
Not only do I support my neighbors and my community, but I still get to purchase new stuff, like books, or coffee, or movie tickets, or socks. And maybe most importantly, my dollars don’t work against my (desire to support my) neighbors and my community as they do when I purchase stuff from non-local businesses. “If you spend that
[$50]  in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes here.” (Italics theirs.) (Again.)
And visions of desolate downtowns come flooding into my brain like so many already existing desolate downtown areas. And the reality that not only do we have to work towards what we don’t yet have, we have to protect what little we do have. When seemingly so much is always stacked against us.
So where did this all come from? Meet Cinda Baxter, the retail store owner-turned-consultant “whose mission is to strengthen independent brick and mortar businesses.” She wrote a blog post (“Save the economy three stores at a time”) (on Always Upward), got some interest, and things went from there.
(You always hear about these seemingly random folks writing seemingly random blog posts and then “making a difference.” Ahh, blogs…)
Okay, okay. So, you’re probably wondering, what is an “independent business”? Baxter and her 3/50 gang note that “there are as many definitions for the word “independent” as there are types of retail stores … [And that in defining their version they use] the most salient points from the most highly respected “buy local” organizations in the country, and hold businesses fitting that definition in the highest regard.” (They go into more depth, too.)
Basically, independent businesses are filled with folks, workers and patrons both, who you would bump into all the time in your community.
(Ahh, community. How dreamy…)
Not convinced? Not skeptical enough? Check it out for yourself. Either way, it seems like we could all be a little more mindful regarding the kind of world our dollars are going to help create once they are free from our grasps.