By Seth Sjostrom
Today’s economy is tough. That’s no secret. We all find ways to cinch the purse strings and do more with less. But are we doing the most with the dollars that we spend within our communities? One local organization has been created to answer that question.
Buy Vancouver is a collective of small, independent businesses that strives to educate the buying public that where and how they spend their dollars impacts their very community and local economy. The group’s premise is three-fold: locally-owned, independent businesses contribute to the unique character of the community; for every $100 spent, $45 spent with a local business remains in the community versus $15 spent at a chain; local, independent businesses create higher-paying jobs.
Mary Sisson, owner of Vancouver-based Kazoodles toy store and founder of Buy Vancouver firmly believes in the organization’s stance, “I have been promoting ‘shop local’ since we opened in 2006.” Mary developed great depth of experience in cultivating independent businesses through editing the ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) national newsletter. Pulling together similarly minded business owners like Paper Tiger Coffee Roaster’s Kenny and Sue Fletcher and Vintage Books’ Becky Millner, Buy Vancouver was born.
“Our goal is to raise awareness among local buyers that where they shop makes a difference in their community,” Mary states. Many buyers prefer to buy American when they have the choice; in fact, they are often open to paying a premium for to do so. The same goes for supporting local shop owners, but buyers have to be aware of their options.
Early manifestations include a group effort in a coupon exchange where several businesses hand out the coupons of other local businesses. To further make connections in the minds of Vancouver shoppers, 21 businesses took part in a “Where’s Waldo” scavenger hunt. Each participating store had a hidden Waldo that children and families could seek out in celebration of Where’s Waldo’s 25thanniversary. Those who submitted entries with a least 16 Waldos found were eligible for a drawing where the winner would receive the complete collection of the famous seek and find books. While not technically a Buy Vancouver event, it represented what the group of businesses could accomplish together.
Buy Vancouver has begun to take shape with fifteen official current members, with more adding on each week. Any Vancouver business that is locally owned, independent to the point where “they could change their name if they wanted to without running it up the corporate chain”, and is not publicly traded is eligible for membership. A mere $25 fee used to cover marketing costs is the only dues demanded.
Buy Vancouver is looking towards the near term future, sponsoring a booth at Vancouver’s Peace and Justice Fair, September 8th. The booth represents their first public forum to espouse their call buy local message. Kenny Fletcher is impressed with the collaborative effort of the businesses involved so far, “Some groups can tend to be a bit passive. All of the members of Buy Vancouver are very active in the organization, each of us taking on a needed area. Even at the Peace and Justice booth, we are all ready to be involved. We will be bringing coffee for the booth’s staffers, at the very least.”
Beyond the Peace and Justice Fair, the group is in full growth mode, feeling membership is ready to explode as their early efforts are recognized. Putting together a comprehensive list of local independent businesses with a corresponding guide is on the docket for the immediate future as is increasing their presence in the community. A pair of related goals includes supporting calls for tax fairness for online merchants and for manufacturers to enforce minimum pricing – both things issues negatively impacting local independent businesses.
As you are wandering around Vancouver or in town for a shopping trip, take note of the circulating salmon sign in the window of local merchants denoting they are an independent purveyor and member of Buy Vancouver. As Vancouver’s neighbors struggle with the same challenges, there are surely lessons to be gleamed from banding together to support local independent businesses, the building blocks of the American dream.
About the contributor: Seth Sjostrom is a local resident and author. His thriller Blood in the Snow, is currently available and Seth releases his holiday title Finding Christmas in September. For more information on Seth or his books, visit www.wolfprintpublishing.com