I recently had the good fortune to find a natural foods store less than 2 miles from where I live. It's not your usual Whole Foods or massive big-box grocery store. It's a tiny little community-run store, that sells a small selection of produce (mostly organically grown in local farms), different kinds of beans, rice, flours, nuts, pastas, etc in bulk, as well as dry goods, fresh artisan bread, healthy deli takeout items, and organic/natural self-care products. They had rows and rows of whole spices and loose teas, in antique jars with beautiful handwritten and hand-drawn labels. They were so pretty, I asked if I could take a photo. The storekeeper hesitated, asking what I would be using them for. I said that it would just be for personal use, since I enjoy photography and I like taking pictures of places I go to.
She said, "Well, as long as you're not spying for Whole Foods, I guess it should be ok."
Hmmm. Do I fit the profile of a Whole Foods spy, if there is such a thing? Well, thinking about it, I did have my big chunky camera. I was wearing my black newsboy-style cap, my fall/winter favorite. I wonder if that had anything to do with it.
So because of that conversation, I am not posting photos here. If you are in the Kent area, just pay a visit to the store.
I found some avocados, which I love to have but are usually quite expensive in grocery stores - sometimes up to $1.99 each.
I asked the storekeeper how much they were selling their avocados. She answered, "$1.49, but it if you think it should be lower then we can reduce it."
That was an unexpected response. How often do you have that kind of transaction in stores anymore? The storekeeper must have sensed my surprise, because she smiled. I thought about it, debating whether I should haggle (which we always do in markets back home), or whether I should just pay the full price - after all, it IS a small, local business operated and supported by a community, not a corporation.
To that I said, "would it be fair to ask for a markdown if I choose the fully ripe ones?"
Fair enough. She gave them to me for 99 cents a piece. I thanked her.
Being the happy grocery shopper that I am, I got a few more items that you wouldn't find in regular grocery stores. I was quite pleased.
This experience really reinforces for me the value of buying local. Granted, I am unable to do it ALL the time. I do shop in those massive big-box grocery stores too. But every little bit counts. For this holiday season, I tried my best to do most of my Christmas shopping in the local stores I knew and liked, such as the ones here, before I left Cincinnati. Those are the ones you want to keep afloat. Those are the ones who are run by people who believe in their product and believe in fair business. The ones where you know the storekeepers by name, and they know you.
I read somewhere that your dollar is worth at least three times as much if you spend it locally. I don't know the math behind it, so don't ask me why. But here is more information about the value of buying local. Click here.
So, as you finish up the last of your Christmas shopping, consider a visit to the small, mom-and-pop businesses in your neighborhood. At a time when every penny counts, let's keep our dollars where they can help the most.
As for me, I left that store feeling hopeful about the fact that yes, there are honest, fair, and generous businesses. And, I had my takeout dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and baklava to look forward to.
Which were very good, by the way. But that's not the only reason for me to go back.