Celebrated each October since 2013, the Buy Nearby campaign is the Michigan Retailers Association’s local shopping initiative. The goal is to educate consumers on the importance of keeping their shopping dollars in Michigan, specifically in their local towns.
In addition to promoting the value of shopping at Michigan retail businesses, the Buy Nearby campaign is designed to be an economic driver for the state. In 2017, Michiganders sent $18.5 billion out of state. That’s money that could have made a big difference in creating jobs and other benefits for communities in the state. There are 116,000 retail stores in Michigan, with about 877,000 workers who are paid $21.6 billion in wages each year. If Michigan consumers switched just one in 10 of their purchases from out-of-state merchants to Michigan businesses, our state would gain more than $1.2 billion in increased economic activity and 10,600 new jobs. Wages would increase by more than $350 million.
“Shopping local will boost the local economy by providing jobs and recycling a larger share of their revenue back into the economy,” said Liz Baker, executive director of the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. “This in turn enriches the whole community. Shopping local preserves our one-of-a-kind businesses and encourages product diversity. It fuels entrepreneurship and creativity. Shop local, spend local, eat local and enjoy local!”
Here in Lowell there are dozens of independent businesses, retailers and restaurants. The owners are friendly, local people whose lives depend on the success of their business. On the surface, it might seem more convenient or cost-effective to head out to some big store, but this doesn’t take into account the myriad other benefits local businesses bring to the community. A locally-owned business has the ability to tailor their goods and services to what the local community wants and needs. They create jobs, they add money to the local economy, and you’re statistically more likely to be satisfied by a local shopping experience. Plus, not only do Lowell stores have most of the same stuff you can get at the mall, they also have better, interesting, more unique options, and shopping locally directly benefits local residents.
“It keeps money in the community,” said Bernard’s Ace Hardware owner Matthew Bernard. “There are a lot of choices in the marketplace nowadays. Our prices are on par with Lowe’s and Home Depot and the other places like that. You don’t get the service in those places as you get in a small business. You can get in and get out without having to walk five miles trying to find somebody that will help you.”
“Lowell is a great place to do business because this is where I live and this is where my people are,” said Jultara Salon owner Julie Heimer. “Keeping your shopping local supports our local community, first of all. It keeps all of us in business. It keeps that money here in our small, little town. We’d be a ghost town if we didn’t have people supporting each other. We all just support each other and make it work.”
Earlier this year April McClure and her sister Misty McClure-Anderson took over the clothing store at 207 E. Main and rebranded it as Fans in the Stands. McClure previously owned her own salon and has also worked for Station Salon and Springrove Variety, so she knows a thing or two about “buying nearby.”
“It’s important, because by shopping locally you’re giving back to your community and keeping the local people in business,” McClure said. “It keeps money in this community, so Lowell is going to thrive and bring even more people to town. All of the events that we have bring tons of people here. They might not know much about Lowell, then they come here and shop, spend their money here, and could recommend Lowell to their friends.”
McClure said she eschews chain stores and the city, instead she chooses to shop either in Lowell or other area small towns.
“I can’t tell you the last time I went to Grand Rapids,” McClure said. “I’d rather go to a small town and see what they have. They’re going to have more unique stuff. I sell all the Lowell gear, which you’re probably not going to find that in Grand Rapids. Small towns have more boutiques and stuff like that. They’re not going to have the same cookie cutter stuff that they have at the malls. For example, I also like going to Rockford’s downtown.”
When local citizens spend their money locally, that money remains in the local economy rather than enriching some far away corporation. Not only that, but unlike most huge corporations, local businesses give back to the
community and participate in community events. Among the organizations local businesses support financially or through volunteering goods, services and labor are Flat River Outreach Ministries, Lowell Rotary, Pink Arrow Pride, Lowell Music Boosters, the Downtown Development Authority, the Lowell High School sports teams, Kent County Youth Fair and many others.
“We have a lot of community involvement,” Heimer said. “It’s important to give back to the people who give to us. We are constantly collecting things for Flat River Outreach Ministries and Pink Arrow Pride, and we are part of the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce and participate in their activities.”
Like many business owners, the New Union crew makes a point of becoming involved in a lot of community events and charities.
“We get involved in the community quite a bit,” co-owner Tyler Velting said. “When we started out, I didn’t know there would be as much of that as there is. We try to stay connected with the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, we
try to do events that other local business are trying to put on, we do a couple yoga events, we’ve done some events with Tap House Bo, we’ve done some stuff with the Kent County Youth Fair, Pink Arrow Pride and many, many, many charity events and sponsorships. The list
of these is very long. We try to donate to as many as we can. It’s hard to pick, to be honest. We just try to spread the wealth.”
D’Agostino Construction owner Lou D’Agostino suggested that Lowell businesses should participate in community events as often as they can.
“Lowell is a unique community, a nice community, and we have to build around that, we have to offer unique things,” D’Agostino said. “If you look, Lowell offers a lot for the little community it is, in my opinion. The Chamber of Commerce does a heck of a job and the merchants do too. I try to promote the Lowell area. More participation will benefit the community.”
“Local businesses do so much for the community,” Bernard said. “We participate in charity events, we make donations to all sorts of endeavors, we support many local charities and school activities. The money that you put back into those local businesses ends up feeding the community and providing lots of benefit and goodwill.”
“The best part about buying local is you’re helping your community,” said Ronda Auto Centers
owner Dan Ronda. “All the money and dollars stay here, you’re not shipping it to Detroit or California or Akron or wherever. Plus all four of our employees are local, so you’re also feeding the economy here that way. We also support the Kids Food Basket with
a special promotion, the Lowell equestrian team, the Moose Lodge, Relay for Life and more.”
Ability Weavers owners Beryl and Eric Bartkus said that Lowell has been incredibly supportive to them, and they are very glad they opened their business here.
“It has been great,” Beryl Bartkus said. “The community has been really supportive. Because we
are an integrated work site for adults who have autism and other developmental disabilities, we bring in a lot of people from elsewhere that have an interest in what we do. Lowell has been really supportive of that and shown a lot of interest in what we do.”
Arctic Heating & Cooling owners Evert and Catharina Bek are originally from the Netherlands. They fell in love with Lowell immediately upon moving to West Michigan in the 70s. Today they donate time and
This article provided by NewsEdge.