Ah, Black Friday! The day when people all over the world spend money they don’t have for things they don’t need because retailers who don’t tell the truth mark the prices they inflate down 20% off of fucking ridiculous!
As you can imagine, I’m not a big fan of box stores and the like. I shop them out of necessity when I absolutely must, but generally prefer to find small businesses and local stores/chains to support with my hard-earned cash. My dad ran a small business for decades and watched, as we all did, while the big box stores and megastores wiped small businesses from the face of the American landscape.
Despite my love of the city, I was raised a small town girl. I bought clothes at Jake’s, where we knew all the staff. We got our groceries at Rouse’s or Ledet’s Supermarket, our shoes at Red Goose Shoes, and had lunch at Jenny’s Diner or the Rinky Dink.
In the thirty years or so since I was growing up, the face of America has changed. More and more, it’s becoming hard to find a locally owned business to support. The independent grocer has been forced into retirement, the local pharmacist is now working graveyard shift at the 24-hour Walgreen’s or (shudder) Wal-Mart, and an important part of our culture is being lost.
My first job in college was as a clerk at Edie’s Hallmark Store in Thibodaux, LA. We had a staff of three—the owner, myself, and another lady named Donna. We didn’t have a computer (or a discount key). We knew our customers by their names, knew about their weddings, cooed over babies, and cheered their successes. They were loyal to us, and we were loyal to them.
Edie’s Hallmark Store no longer exists. Neither does Jenny’s Diner or Red Goose Shoes or City Bakery or the Grand Theater. Small town America is being replaced by megastores that employ increasingly disenfranchised, disillusioned workers who, instead of living the American Dream, are trudging through some sort of Orwellian nightmare with faceless overlords and no hope of ever doing any more than subsisting.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Americans are fighting back, and more people than ever are saying no to the death grip of big business over the American Dream. Groups like Independent We Stand are working to bring consumer dollars back into the hands of small, independent, local businesses.
Shopping locally not only helps keep our money in our own communities (only $13 out of every $100 spent at a national chain stays in the local community), but it helps us retain the unique and culturally diverse charm that can only survive through vigorous support of independent and locally owned business. Shopping locally also helps the environment, as products do not need to be shipped across the globe, thus saving on gas and pollution.
There are many more reasons to shop locally. But honestly, for me it all comes down to this. I would pass up a thousand McDonald’s for a catfish poboy from the Rinky Dink, and I would pass up a thousand Wal-Mart’s just to browse through my dad’s old frame shop one more time.
It’s more than just nostalgia. It’s community and memories and solid economic good sense. This Thanksgiving, please. Avoid the Black Friday trap, and please shop local.