I have never been one to rush out to the local mall on the so-called “Black Friday” after Thanksgiving. With a day off, and the opportunity to connect with friends, food, and football, what’s the point?
But for the past several years we’ve returned to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley town of Staunton, Virginia, where we lived for 15 years in the 1980s and 1990s, to spend the holiday with good friends. We make all those connections above (except for the football – our friends don’t have cable) but we add in lots of live music so it makes for a terrific respite.
And we’ve taken to spending a good part of Friday in downtown Staunton. I know this part of town intimately, having worked with the local merchants, property owners, residents and city officials to preserve it for 13 years. My office was in the Wharf Historic District and our home was only 4 blocks away in the New Town Historic District. Downtown Staunton is a National Trust Great American Main Street Award winner as well as a 2001 National Trust Dozen Distinctive Destination. And I’m here to say that even in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, this Main Street is hanging in there and even thriving.
So with the family and Oakley, our host, we took off for a wonderful day on the town, buying locally (we still think of Staunton as one of our homes) as we visited with old friends and neighbors. Our first stop, of course, was Fretwell Bass Shop, where Oakley and I got to salivate over 20 or more acoustic basses and play some beautiful Huss & Dalton guitars (top-of-the line guitars made – you guessed it – right here in Staunton). The rest of the family left us to our bliss, while they took off to see the parts of downtown they cared about. After we’d played a variety of instruments, Oakley and I caught up with the family. Over the course of the next four hours we checked out the Roots Music offerings for the weekend at Mockingbird, then stopped in to visit and do a little shopping with Dana Flanders at Crown Jewelers. (Our friend Dana was featured in a great Thanksgiving Day piece in the local paper about cooking locally – with all her ingredients coming from within a 100-mile radius of Staunton.) We saw the annual Arts for Gifts show (yes, with gifts made by local artisans) in the beautifully restored R.R. Smith Center for History & Arts, had a great lunch at the tasty Shenandoah Pizza (where the owner is a big Allman Brothers fan), shopped at the very busy Sunspots Studio while Andrew & Claire watched the glass blowers, did a little shopping with Dana’s sister-in-law Kelly at Byers Street Housewares, picked up a coffee next door at Blue Mountain Coffee in the Wharf, bought a couple of bottles of wine from the Wine Cellar down the street, and ended up shopping at Pufferbellies Toy Store while Susan Blanton, the store’s owner, swooned over how much Andrew & Claire had grown since she read to them at Children’s Hour in the Staunton Public Library some 15 years ago.
It was a fun day with family and friends. But it was also an important day for downtown Staunton. Because the Browns, like hundreds of other families in Staunton yesterday, decided to buy locally. Why is this important, you ask? Well, the Staunton Downtown Development Association has the answer for you:
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO SPEND YOUR DOLLAR LOCALLY?
60 cents out of every dollar you spend comes back into our community ~ That’s $60 out of every $100!
Strengthens the local economy through taxes ~Downtown restaurants generate 60% of the City meals tax! Downtown hotels generate 48% of the City lodging tax!
Creates jobs ~ Over 1800 people work downtown
Circulates your dollars throughout the business community ~ Independents support each other by purchasing services and products for their businesses; 80% goes back into the community!
Promotes freedom of choice ~ Merchandise buying decisions based on the wants and needs of local customers, adding diversity to shopping options!
Protects our own unique Staunton culture and history ~ Preserves & recycles existing architecture for future generations!
Supports local non–profits ~ Independents donate 350% more to non–profits than national chains!
So this holiday season, buy locally. You’ll have a great time, you’ll avoid the crush of the malls, and you’ll do something for your friends and neighbors.
More to come…