FeaturedEat & Shop Local Like It’s Your Job – Because It Is!

Eat & Shop Local Like It’s Your Job – Because It Is!

In my youth my whole goal in life was to live in a hip, urban neighborhood. One filled with history, beautiful buildings, events, arts, great restaurants, and boutique stores. I envisioned myself living blissfully car-free, riding my bike to all of my daily activities, soaking in the culture, and hanging out at a local coffee shop with my F-R-I-E-N-D-S! Eventually, I was fortunate enough to discover, along with my husband, a fixer upper in a rough community with tons of potential. For a blissful decade we enjoyed working on house projects, and spending our kid-free discretionary income at local venues and shops.
At the time, I felt excessive guilt at the amount of money I should have been saving instead of dining out and shopping locally. But what I didn’t realize is that I was filling an important niche in the ecosystem of the revitalizing community. Not only was I actively working to restore a historic building and contributing to the energy of the neighborhood and city BUT my dollars were essential in funding the local businesses that made our urban neighborhood the unique food/art/culture scene that we wanted as part of our community!
Fast forward to my 40’s, suddenly with two kids, and being CEO of a design firm, I suddenly find myself cash-flush and time-poor. Like a hermit I retreat daily to my now complete historic abode – lacking the energy to go out! It doesn’t help that my feral children are impossible to take out to restaurants – and babysitters have become unicorns (they apparently don’t exist anymore). It’s just easier to plan ahead, cook a quick, easy meal, and then have leftovers for lunch the next day. Making coffee at home in the morning is essential because I need liquid motivation to herd the cats – I mean kids, to get ready and get them off to school in the morning. Shopping for pleasure too has fallen by the wayside, replaced with the convenience of Instacart and Amazon.
I’ll have to admit, for a brief moment in time I was patting myself on the back, cheering myself on for “saving so much money”! I was blissfully ignorant, thinking that my time and penny hoarding was a net gain. It wasn’t until one recent Sunday when the kids were visiting their grandparents that I realized our downtown had become a ghost town. Many of the restaurants we used to frequent reduced their hours and some of my once favorite local shops are gone. What happened? Was it COVID? Or was it because I and my peers thought we were saving time and money by not dining and shopping locally, only to realize on the occasion that we desperately need a night out, or a last minute item that the businesses are all gone?

It wasn’t until a little restaurant next to my house closed that I realized the error of my ways. This spot was my go-to for the occasional meal planning fail, or busy back-to-back kids sports nights when I NEEDED the convenience of a ready-made dinner just steps from my door.  
The thing is, urban businesses exist in a very delicate ecosystem, unlike the many chain restaurants clustered around freeway off ramps and suburban shopping centers, these unique gems are wholly dependent on the local residents for their survival. And unlike those chain or online stores, the dollars spent at these restaurants by and large go directly back to the surrounding community and the sales taxes to support your local government, helping to provide valuable public services and amenities!  
The thing is, if we want to live in a hip, urban neighborhood, then it’s literally our job to get out there, eat out, meet friends for coffee, and support the cute little shops! Plan for it, budget for it, and most importantly enjoy it, guilt-free! It’s not a waste of money – it’s essential to supporting local businesses, which in turn buoy up our local economy and increase our property values. It creates a positive feedback loop that supports local businesses and governments to reinvest in your unique place. So what are you waiting for?! Get out there and have some guilt-free fun!

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