Materialism Alert, with Apologies to Madonna
I do love shopping and the material world. If you don’t lust for material goods for yourself and don't get pleasure out of shopping for others, then maybe you should stop reading this post right now. In fact, you may not want to bother reading the next 3 posts because they'll all be about food and cooking-related holiday gifts – the cute (under $10!), the useful (but not boring), and the cool (without breaking the bank.) Everyone else - read on!
Online shopping is all the rage these days. Efficiency and price are understandable drawing cards for using a mouse instead of your feet. But there is nothing like browsing in a “real” store. When you need inspiration or advice, a knowledgeable sales person is more precious than gold.
For a shopper like me, there’s only one thing better than a bricks-and-mortar store - and that’s one that is locally-owned, convenient, and comfortable. I can do big; I’ve frequented more than my share of chain store outlets. Like many others, I am price-conscious out of necessity. I don't restrict my clothing, kitchenware, and other purchases to local stores any more than I buy all my food from farmers' markets. As laudable as buying local goal may be, it isn't going to be my only guide for purchases anytime soon. But, I am becoming more conscious about who I buy from, as well as what I buy.
There are plenty of reasons to support local merchants - for instance:
It's a mitzvah (good deed) for the community;
In my experience at least, salespeople at local stores are often more knowledgeable than those in chains or big box stores ; and
It's usually more fun than wading through aisles of merchandise chosen by corporate headquarters based on marketing surveys, not human interaction. Like going to the farmers' market, shopping at a locally-owned store often feels like an experience and not a trial. Whether I talk to a vendor/owner/salesperson or fellow shopper, I'm much more likely to strike up a conversation and learn something interesting about the store's wares or people's experience with them - or maybe something entirely unrelated - in a locally-run place.
The independently-owned kitchenware store nearest to me is Hill’s Kitchen, in the Washington DC Capitol Hill neighborhood. (I learned about Hill's through a part-time store employee, Greg, a family friend of ours.) I decided to visit the store late last week to find holiday gifts. Across the street from the Eastern Market metro stop, the store looked inviting as I approached.
Once inside, I was like an addict surrounded by guilty pleasures. I admit to being a kitchenware and gadget fanatic, but I’ve also walked out of many chain stores and department store kitchen departments with a ho-hum feeling that I could take-or-leave most of the trinkets (tsotchkes as my grandma would have called them in Yiddish.) By contrast, this place is heaven.
If you’re not near Washington DC, with a little luck (and maybe some help from Google or Bing) you can find an independently-owned store in your own community. If you’re like me, shopping includes on-line and chain store purchases. But how about supporting local merchants (and your neighbors) too?
This week and next Monday, I’ll feature kitchen and food-related gift ideas from Hill’s Kitchen, along with a couple of “mitzvah gifts”, creative ways to spread the wealth and good cheer through good deeds: