The Saratoga Sun -

Local dollars make sense


Circling an asphalt wasteland like a vulture waiting for that fleeting moment when a parking space opens, fighting the bargain-hunting hordes blocking the aisles and stepping into lines that feel like they have not moved since the last Black Friday may be fun for some people.

Here in Saratoga, we feel lucky for the opportunity to walk into a distinctive store, go straight to the owner and ask about the new items in stock.

Inside this year’s Christmas Candle special pullout, you will find local business owners donating their time and money to provide: food for the Festival of Trees, gifts for underprivileged children and fundraisers for art education. For these people, their bottom line is not measured in dollars, but in community.

Some people shop mainly for the bargains available during the holiday season, but for those who view shopping, especially gift shopping, as a creative, original act, cookie-cutter, big-box stores are never going to cut it.

It is a treat finding a store that does not exist anywhere else. We are spoiled to have many stores that are one-of-a-kind in the Valley.

When you go to a local store, you approach a singular architectural design, you browse in an uncommon floor plan and look at distinctive displays.

That uniqueness helps establish local personality, culture and a sense of place.

“When people go on vacation,” according to Richard Moe, President of the National Historic Preservation Trust, “they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.”

Wal-Mart, Target, and malls filled with smaller, but equally widespread carbon-copy chains are anyplace. Most of their profits go to company headquarters (someplace not in the community) and to shareholders (also not in the community).

Local business owners are less likely to leave. They have a stake in the community’s future.

Not only are they more likely to spend their money in other stores in town, sustaining the local economy, they also contribute 250 percent more to non-profit groups than large businesses, according to the organization Sustainable Connections.

Local owners are usually behind the counter, available to answer questions or take suggestion on new items they should carry or order. Try talking to the owner of Target.

Big box stores may have a hold on variety of products for sale, but local business owners have a lock on variety of service. No amount of training videos will give a Wal-Mart “associate” the advantage over a local storeowner.

Local owners eat at the same restaurants as you, and their kids go to school with your kids.

Local businesses generally use existing buildings and don’t require public investment on infrastructure and tax break giveaways.

The sales tax you pay in local stores stays in the county and returns in the form of services. If you travel out of the county, the sales tax you pay stays in that county or state.

You can find some amazing deals online, sometimes with free shipping and handling. But if you buy online, you pay no sales tax. That may be good for you in the short run, but it deprives the county and local community of a needed source of revenue in the long run.

The L.A. Times reported that Sears and Toys R Us stores opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year. A Target opened at 9 p.m.

Local stores exhibit their sense of community responsibility by closing or limiting their hours on holidays, giving both employees and owners time with their families and a Thanksgiving or Christmas that resembles what they were 50 years ago.

Both holidays are intended to be celebrations of togetherness and present opportunities to give thanks for what we have. Take the opportunity this holiday season to celebrate simply and give back to the community by shopping locally. In the end, you will benefit yourself, your friends and your neighbors.


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