Support Independent STL: Local is the New Black

Friday night, I’ll be celebrating the art of shopping at Gentleman’s Emporium over some welcome beer, bourbon and bacon. Handmade, locally sourced and ethically imported goods will be for sale via nearly 20 independent St. Louis businesses. Goods for the whole family will be up for grabs, ranging from vintage fashion and handcrafted jewelry to records, wallets and prints. Music will be playing. Booze and food will be served generously. It’s really the perfect atmosphere for any holiday shopper guilty of a little procrastination and in need of a stiff one.

Yet, it’s not just a night out with friends over complimentary cocktails. When you buy a gift from an independent vendor you are literally putting gifts under his own tree. You are paying her electric bill, or feeding her beloved pet. You are paying for a trip for him to see his mom. An engagement ring. A dinner with friends. When you buy from a small business, you are creating jobs. You are keeping their equally indie, U.S.A. made suppliers’ doors open.

Handmade Happy Hour Buy Local STL St. Louis Maggie's Farm Vintage

When you make a local purchase, you are contributing to local society. Independent business owners have a tendency to be those same individuals campaigning for neighborhood support, rallying for beautification projects or encouraging potential entrepreneurs to take that leap (Read: Jeff & Randy Vines, Meagan Huth, Claire Wolff). These men and women are not just restoring their own boroughs, they are restoring our culture. Historic St. Louis advocates, local politicians, neighborhood groups are cultivating a higher quality of life for St. Louisans. By purchasing a handmade gift or eating at a locally owned and operated restaurant, you are playing an important part in the success of their efforts.

It’s true, that small business means something different to a lot of us than its legal definition. Ensuring growth means committing to a collectively independent lifestyle. Go through a local ad agency. Buy your car from an independent dealer. Get your food from a local grocer. How will the extra investment pay out? According to Independent We Stand, small businesses accounted for 65% of all net new jobs over the last 17 years. Independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar than chains. For every square foot a local firm occupies, the local economy gains $179 verses $105 for chains. Locally-owned businesses reinvest in the local economy at a 60% higher rate than chains and e-retailers. It turns out, small businesses employ over half of all US workers.

If that isn’t enough, consider the moral values of an indie entrepreneur who has seen struggle, lived through it, shared streets with poverty stricken families. When Sandy devastated the East Coast, nearly every small business with power provided their neighbors with access to electricity to charge phones so that worried families everywhere could find some peace of mind. Newsstands stayed open in an effort to make papers, batteries and flashlights available to stranded citizens, while big box stores remained closed. Restaurants served free meals. Small business owners care because it’s their city too.They band together, because unlike competitive chains, they understand that we're all in this together.

By choosing to turn your casual support of local businesses into a lifestyle, you are contributing to a greater St. Louis – for yourself, for all of us.

#STL365 Handmade Happy Hour st. Louis buy local

Resolve to keep it local. Next year, try buying at least one local item every day with me. #STL365 But don’t wait until 2013. Join us at Gentleman’s Emporium to shop indie and toast to St. Louis. I promise you will go home with a one-of-a-kind treasure made with care and love or a classic remnant curated by a passionate hobbyist. And maybe a little buzz.