Buy nearby - Program stresses value of shopping close to home
Buying locally is the newest trend these days where sustainability and community activism is concerned. Last Wednesday April 26th a group of citizens gathered at the Ballard Neighborhood Service Center to discuss their own community's take on this movement, the Buy Ballard program.
A collaborative effort of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, the organization Sustainable Ballard and local business owners, the idea behind Buy Ballard is to keep businesses within the local community, rather than have shoppers looking elsewhere for everyday staples. The program's leaders are concerned about the influx of national chain-store retailers vying for business space in the neighborhood, and are searching for alternative ways to keep citizens happy with locally owned businesses.
Nancie Kosnoff of Queen Anne, who also joined the meeting, likened the situation to that of her neighborhood, which is currently battling a proposed lease with Kroger to bring in a QFC "strip mall" in place of the neighborhood's long-standing Metropolitan Market.
"There are probably plenty of neighborhoods out there that would love to have a QFC, but Queen Anne isn't one of them. What we are really worried about here is the loss of local commerce. When you give your money to a local business it stays within the community and helps [the businesses] to sustain themselves," said Kosnoff.
Likewise the Buy Ballard program emphasizes the importance of keeping local business thriving, through both volunteer work and community activism. The "Chamber Label" (a static-cling decal that can be attached to either a door or a window of a store) for instance is one way of letting customers know that they are shopping locally. The blue decals that members of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce possess tell shoppers that their business supports the Ballard community and contributes to its financial prosperity.
A key item on the agenda included a brainstorming session on how to create a local directory that would enable members of the Ballard community to find a certain good or service within the neighborhood. The ideal directory, it was decided, would be a Web site in which businesses could get online and edit/update their information whenever needed and community members could likewise access particulars about where to make their purchases.
Other ideas included the desire for some sort of "local currency"-that is, a type of punch-card or credit card that customers could use in certain local stores and receive a specific discount, thus creating more business for local merchants while encouraging customers to stay within their neighborhood.
Newspaper access and media attention were also emphasized, as was the importance of finding ways to advertise while staying within a budget that local businesses could afford. As the Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization, rather than government funded, the programs and solutions proposed must fit within the members' respective budgets.
"We need to work on how this can be presented to the Ballard residents at large," stressed Melanie Hendricks of the Magnolia News. Hendricks related to the group the importance she felt community newspapers held in advocating local buying action. "They really are a great tool for reaching the public," said Hendricks.
The Ballard Chamber of Commerce has scheduled the next Buy Ballard meeting for 6 p.m. on May 24th at the Ballard Neighborhood Service Center. It is open to the public.
Helen Freund is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.
Editor's note: The Ballard News-Tribune is a member of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce.