Written by Erica Stewart
Now that the calendar reads November, and Halloween candy is on deep discount at the grocery store, it’s okay - in my book anyway - to talk about the holiday shopping season. In the Main Street world, we see a strong tie between the health of historic downtown or neighborhood business districts and the health of the businesses that inhabit them. Makes sense, right? And as a member of the shopping public who does find extreme door-busting shopping a tad oft-putting, I’m all for conscientious consumerism.
So, I was happy to learn of two new national “shop indie” or “shop local” campaigns that give us some gentle reminders to show our favorite mom n’ pops some love when making the rounds this year, as well as give shop-owners some tools for drawing us in. “Shift your Shopping,” “Plaid Friday,” and “Small Business Saturday” each have persuasive arguments for how some well-placed cash can make a difference in keeping our local economies humming.
Take a 2008 study of Kent County, Michigan. Researchers estimated that shifting 10% of the county’s per capita spending from chains to locally-owned independent businesses would create “almost $140 million in new economic activity and 1,600 new jobs for the region.” Those types of gains are on every county’s wish list this year. We can do it!
Of course local Main Street organizations have plenty of experience in promoting home-grown businesses at the holidays and all-year round. One such holiday themed campaign comes from Minnesota Main Street. Its Holidays on MaiN campaign encourages Minnesotans to do 75% of their holiday shopping in local downtown districts. Gophers unite!
Folks in New Hampshire are taking a different approach to raising interest in its local artisans, craftspersons and entrepreneurs. Its NH Open Doors event offers the public a weekend (November 4-5 this year) of shopping and touring throughout the state, including free demonstrations, nibbles and activities. In Rochester, for example, one woodworking retail store featured a "meet the builder" session and a demonstration of wood finishing. Meanwhile, another local gallery will host an artist known for turning vintage golf clubs into ducks, backscratchers and wine bottle holders. Even more intriguing is his demonstration of how to fashion something called a "spurtle" out of cherry wood. Don’t ask me.
Louisiana Main Street has a month-long cultural road show in November it calls “Louisiana: Main to Main” to get residents and visitors whipped into a frenzy about its heritage, music, arts and crafts, and food (as if they weren’t already?). Festivals and special events take place in designated Main Street communities throughout the state to celebrate the state’s rich history, culture and creative and natural assets, and to encourage road trips from one Main Street community to the next. The fun includes a Tribute to Hank Williams, Sr. concert in Eunice, an “If Headstones Could Talk” cemetery tour in Abbeville, and a Civil War Encampment at Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia. Need more convincing? Louisiana Main Street describes its communities this way: “Just like Mayberry only the diner sells gumbo and Aunt Bea does a wicked two-step!”
Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Public Affairs department.