Buying local is the best way to buy—and I'm not just saying that because I sell things in Tucson. I'm saying that because there are so many phenomenal businesses around town that deserve our support.
Besides, bad things happen if you don't support local companies.
Many of those businesses have been kicking around for years. Others have cropped up because, in certain cases, the employment market has made it easier to start one's own business than find a fulfilling job. Then there are still others where people are attaining their dream of being their own boss doing something they believe in and love.
Kudos to them all. Now buy something.
Some small local businesses luck out by selling items or providing services that it doesn't make sense to obtain elsewhere—like tattoo shops or pizzerias. Shipping on large items and appliances may cost more than the actual item. And it's always tough to set an appointment with an alarm guy or electrical expert when they have to travel from out of state.
Tucsonan Kelly Rishor knows this well. Her foothills-area business, LiteSync, provides electrical, audio, video and security services. She's also big on keeping the local trend going, and even has a business policy to buy from area vendors.
"As a business-owner, we do everything we can to buy local," she says. "We firmly believe it's the right thing to do for the economy and environment."
It's also the right thing to do for local photographer Bill Vaughn, even if it means paying a bit more.
"I usually buy all my camera equipment locally," he says. "Prices may not be on par with what you can get online, but if there are any issues with it, it's easier to return. Plus, (you get) that instant satisfaction of getting what you want now, rather than waiting by the mailbox for something you've ordered online."
Quick thrills can do it every time—maybe. Then there's the reality of it all.
"I admire the idea, but lack the strength of my convictions," admits Nancy Hard, an artist in Austin, Texas. But at least she's fouling up an economy other than Tucson's.
Seriously, though: Buying local is not always as easy or pleasing as we'd like it to be.
"Some things I buy have to be bought online, such as cameras and camera accessories, since there is not a local camera store," says Tucson photog Rodney White II, who is clearly less enthused than Vaughn with the area's photo-related merchandise.
White works for a locally owned company, but, alas, nothing it sells is locally produced. The same goes for some gifts shops and the like that are quick to stock their walls and shelves with products from anywhere but Tucson.
The eccentric shop Bohemia was well known for giving local artists a boost by showcasing and selling their works. It went out of business in January after nearly a decade.
That's just one of the bad things that can happen if we fail to support the local economy and community. Another bad thing is an environment that looks and feels like too many other morose corners of the United States. Enter more box stores, strip malls and fast-food chains. At least most other places don't have a saguaro nestled next to their Burger King sign.
Yet another bad thing is fewer connections with the community. Buying local gives us the opportunity to meet fellow Tucsonans who are working hard and helping to keep our city unique. Yes, it also means you actually have to leave the house instead of shopping on a computer screen, but that trek may be worth it (as long as you don't do it during rush hour).
Meeting fabulous folks can also come from taking advantage of the organizations set up to help those who have taken the plunge into small-business ownership. SCORE immediately comes to mind, a nonprofit stocked with volunteers who have impressive business experience and ideas. We have George to thank for my freaky car design.
Local First Arizona is another helpful organization that offers business exposure and events for Arizona companies. The eighth annual Certified Local Fall Festival hits Phoenix in November. Both SCORE and Local First Arizona may also provide ways for business owners to increase local sales.
Area businesses are not exempt from fulfilling their part of the equation by catering to and filling local wants and needs. This move can make Internet shopping less likely, provide the lemongrass for which I have been fruitlessly searching around town—and perhaps even give Rodney White a slate of camera stuff from Tucson.