When I moved to Boston, I was amazed by the magnitude of places selling coffee. There is a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks on almost every corner here. Since I’m a caffeine addict, I was pleased that coffee would never be difficult or inconvenient to find. However, I was disappointed that the presence of large coffee chains greatly overwhelmed those few locally-owned coffee shops. I wondered why so many Bostonians are extremely loyal to chain coffee shops, rather than local coffee shops.
Before moving to Boston, I lived right down the street from a cozy local coffee shop, owned by my neighbors. Not only was the coffee great, but the coffee shop was active in our community, sponsoring many cultural events and promoting sustainable business practices. That’s the best thing about locally-owned businesses: they support the local communities that support them. Local businesses are more likely to donate to local nonprofit groups, support other local vendors and provide other services to their communities.
Local businesses are not only beneficial to the local economy, but the environment, as well. When local businesses use local vendors, they decrease their environmental impact by using less transportation. However, in even the most economical and sustainable large corporations, products or raw materials are often shipped to a distribution center then transported to the various business locations. This involves a lot of energy and the costs are passed onto the consumers.
If support of the community and sustainability are not reason enough to shop locally, consider the quirkiness and innovation that locally-owned businesses supply to Boston. Our local businesses make Boston interesting and distinguish it from any other city in the country. Everyone has Starbucks, but you have to be in Boston to enjoy the Thinking Cup or Boston Common Coffee Co.
I do understand that there are some reasons for not shopping locally. Currently, locally owned businesses may be less convenient than chain stores with numerous locations. However, with increased support of local businesses, the amount of local businesses and entrepreneurship will increase. Local businesses will be more abundant and therefore, more convenient. Some consumers may also support large corporations, because locally owned businesses are sometimes more expensive than their corporate counterparts. Yet when one considers the economic and environmental benefits of shopping locally, they definitely outweigh the costs.
Since I hope to see increased support of local businesses in Boston, I’ve decided to dedicate my next few blog posts to highlighting the fantastic locally-owned businesses in Boston. I’ve decided to inform you of great local coffee shops first, since I obviously love local coffee shops. However, I would like to know if the readers are especially interested in any other types of locally-owned businesses. Grocery stores? Clothing stores? Banks? Let me know! I know it can be difficult to break the habit of visiting your favorite chain stores, but there are also local businesses looking for your support, so they can reciprocate it.
To learn more about the mutually beneficial relationship between local businesses and their communities check out this awesome TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2aWLPPmu_Y&feature=youtu.be
-Marilyn Willmoth, Future Boston Intern