Welcome to the party, New Year 2017. I hope you are a great year for us all. Steph and I have been very busy in the shop so far this year and I think it is about to get busier. It has had me thinking about an old phrase that is probably as appropriate today as anytime. It is the “Buy American” tag that was very popular in the eighties, but over the years has somewhat diminished. I think it’s time to put a little air back in that balloon as well as adding the more current tag “Shop Locally” to it.
I was at a chamber of commerce dinner here recently and really enjoyed seeing some old friends as well meeting some new ones. It was a joint dinner between two local chambers and they gave out awards to some worthy folks and businesses. Given that we are a little remote and don’t have the population we once had, the business community here has suffered as much or more than anything else in the area, but there are still businesses locally that have been around for a long time.
One of the awards for business of the year was given to a business that was celebrating 50 years in business. I think that is a very worthy achievement. It made me think of a radio ad I have heard several times about a local florist’s business that has been in the area for over 100 years. Now, to me that could only happen because they are supported by the local community.
Our business here is a little over six months old and we are just starting to get noticed. Given that I am supposed to be retired, I really wasn’t looking to get too crazy too quickly and to be honest, we do a lot of custom work for customers all over the country. That volume can easily be controlled especially during fishing and hunting season or if I just want to sleep in every now and again. Having a shop on the main street though changes that. We keep pretty regular hours and are here 5 to six days a week. When you love what you do, it isn’t work at all, just another day of enjoyment.
Even though we sell most of our wood works across the country, we buy all of our supplies locally. From wood products to hardware to finishes, if I can get it locally, I do, even if it is a few pennies more. The families that these businesses support need all the help they can. I don’t know anyone who works for Amazon, so I try to find alternatives before I push the “buy” button on their site. The jeans I am wearing came from a clothier just up the block from my shop and I get my haircut down the next block. Lunch is at a little pub a short walk away and going there gives me an opportunity to catch up on what’s happening locally.
I think this is beginning to pay off for Steph and me at our shop. We just finished building a piece of furniture for a local customer and have two other orders for custom pieces for some other folks. We have also been given an opportunity to build some pieces for a local manufacturer and that will be the largest order we have ever seen. They liked the fact we were local and used local suppliers and that we were competitively priced…not the cheapest, but in the ball park.
If I could ask us all to do one thing this year, it would be to do all you can to shop locally as much as possible. Certainly there will be times when the draw of the internet and free shipping will outweigh the local shop, but keep in mind there are friends you may get to run into when visiting local stores. It could be better than Facebook or whatever other social media keeps folks from having an actual conversation these days. You don’t know what you are missing.
And that’s the situation as I survey it …
After a 35-year career downstate amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.
Image credit: C. Thomas Anderson