Buying Local

Dr. Madalyn Otto

We’ve all been intensely focused on the current global health crisis and trying to adjust our personal and professional lives accordingly. For many, our professional/career lives have been rattled to their cores. Many businesses have been forced to close their doors temporarily, and some will not be able to withstand the pressure, and will sadly remain closed. In our own community of Concord, NH, our small businesses are under immense pressures. Not only do they struggle to operate while closed or with limited access, but they also struggle to afford to instate the new measures required to maintain the health and safety of the community when they are open. On top of this, stay-inside orders and widespread job-loss or fear of job-loss has caused people to engage in spending freezes or to change the companies from which they consume.

As a small business, we here at Whole Health Concord can attest to the economic pain that COVID has unleashed. We are working hard to continue to provide care to our patients, but have real fears about our ability to keep our virtual doors open and our staff up-to-snuff in the not-too-distant future if the trends away from supporting local businesses continues.

My experience as part of a small, independently-owned medical practice during the last 8 weeks has recently caused me to seriously re-evaluate my own spending patterns since the days of lock-downs and stay-at-home orders. I am completely guilty of almost overnight changing everything about the way I operate in my community. My Amazon spending increased significantly for household products and certain non-perishable food items out of the safety and convenience of not leaving my home. My grocery spending changed. I was no longer hanging out in the local coffee shops, perusing the local bookstores and frequenting music venues as I habitually was before. I didn’t consider at first the impact that my spending pattern changes would have on these small businesses. But now I am starting to see through the fog, and my husband and I are strategizing how to return to investing in our local community.

I read an interesting book lately called “This is Where You Belong” by Melody Warnick. It’s about developing what is called “place attachment” or loving where you live. It has nothing to do with a global pandemic, but it has everything to do with recognizing that the local businesses in your town are what make the town what it is. If I want my town to survive and thrive after the pandemic, I need to make sure my dollars go towards supporting it now. In her book, Melody talks about the impact that even small amounts of money spent on local businesses have a profound impact not only on that business, but on the town or city itself. This is because when you spend money at a local business (buying products from your local store’s shelf rather than Amazon, for example), the majority of that money stays in the community. If you purchase something from a corporation or out-of-state business, only a tiny portion of those dollars will ever touch the place you live and love. She makes the case based on some research on the subject that if everyone would commit just $50 per month on local, independent businesses, the ultimate benefit from this would be many billions of dollars annually towards small-businesses thriving.

$50 per month seemed more than achievable, even during a lock-down. And when we really sat down to the table, we quickly realized how much more we could be doing to support the shops, food providers & restaurants in Concord that we love. In fact, I never sat down to calculate just how much I was investing in my city before the crisis! With minimal extra effort on our part, and only a tiny bit of added expense, we could re-commit a lot more dollars to Concord that we had accidentally diverted during the start of the crisis: we could purchase food items from Tucker’s, birthday cards/gifts from Gibson’s, coffee from White Mountain, groceries from the Concord co-op, produce from a local CSA or farmers’ market, take-out dinner from Willow’s, etc. As I write this article, we are also contemplating becoming members of Red River Theater simply because we love that we have such a theater in Concord and we want it to remain operational!

Some of you amazing people reading this article have already thought of this and have been making an effort to keep the businesses you love in town above water. For others, you are like me and had a temporary “out-of-town” experience (play on out-of-body) while you simply tried to keep yourselves afloat. I totally get it. It’s been a very strange few months, and everyone’s physical and financial circumstances are different. But as a small-business owner, an inhabitant of Concord and a New-Hampshire-enthusiast, I ask that you take a moment to check-in with yourself and consider what you might be able to do to make a difference to your favorite places. If we all work together, we can keep Concord and the state of New Hampshire the magical place we know and love without risk to our health & safety.

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