Earlier this month, residents in Chesterville, east of North Grenville, engaged in a debate about something that tends to be very important in small towns – shopping local. The debate came after a new resident there asked his neighbours online whether anyone would be available to shuttle him to other towns, including Kemptville, for activities such as grocery shopping. Many simply offered to help drive the man, while others were quite upset that he wouldn’t shop at the local Chesterville grocery store, even though it’s more expensive.
The debate here seems clear, but for so many in small towns, it is not a debate at all. Failing to support local can be the lowest of the low in the eyes of one’s small town neighbours. In North Grenville, the situation is different than it is in Chesterville, considering how fast the town of Kemptville is growing. Kemptville is filled with local businesses, but some are small and locally owned, and others are franchise locations of larger chains. Some locals, for example, may find it wrong to visit Tim Hortons in town instead of patronizing Brewed Awakenings. Others may find it appalling to go to Walmart for merchandise instead of finding the same item at a local shop. There is no doubt that at least some of this debate stems from money – smaller local shops are usually more expensive than larger chain stores and restaurants.
The quandary for locals therefore becomes a question of supporting local vs. saving money. In the tight knit North Grenville community that we have all come to know, it is not surprising that there is a culture of “looking down upon” those who choose to save money by travelling to Ottawa for shopping, or shopping online at retailers like Amazon. Failing to support local is often perceived as turning one’s back on the community. It is almost something that one must hide to avoid the ridicule.
Something to keep in mind is that for some North Grenville residents, shopping at local stores may not be a choice they get to make. A dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to, and anyone can struggle with having enough money to buy necessities, from a single person struggling to pay bills on their own, to a family with a bunch of kids to support. Failing to buy local is rarely a “statement” or an “argument” against supporting one’s own community. More often, it’s a simple decision required to be able to survive on a limited budget.
My rule of thumb is this: those who can afford to shop local should really consider it. You will support the employment of your own friends and neighbours, you will support the local economy and therefore ensure that local stores and services remain available when we need them, and you’ll even help the environment by travelling less. But just remember – we never really know a stranger’s living situation. Judge less, support more, and (when possible), shop local.
A simple observation in regards to shopping local. I owned a boat for years and buying gas on the water is expensive. One can be tempted to buy at your local gas station were prices are much cheaper……. all good until the marinas that sell gas close for lack of business. What to do then, when the boat you are running is a large houseboat with all the family on board runs out of gas. You can blame the faulty fuel guage, or perhaps the captain. Who do you call..? 9 ton of house boat is not something you can paddle to shore. But that marina you have been supporting will happily bring you fuel along with a healthy dose of ribbing, on top of the embarrassing way you already feel. Don’t forget all the local businesses that you can always rely on to be there when needed. They are the backbone of any small community. That’s the way I see it anyway.