Shop Locally and Support Small Businesses
By Betty Freeman
Personal service, unique products, supporting social change, reducing one’s carbon footprint, keeping money in the community to enhance our local life — these are all good reasons to shop locally. Small Business Saturday is on November 30, and Langley Chamber of Commerce encourages you to support your local small businesses this holiday season and all year long.
Tourism helps our small businesses in the warmer months, but when winter comes, the good will and loyalty of locals makes all the difference to our shop owners.
Though tourists are naturally drawn to her cozy shop full of pretty things, Lilly Van Gerbig of Fair Trade Outfitters believes it is her local customers who keep her in business.
“We wouldn’t be successful without our loyal local customers,” said Van Gerbig. “We appreciate them so much.”
Fair Trade Outfitters is a little store with a big idea. By purchasing products from third world countries, they support makers who are often seeking to escape lives riddled with violence, human trafficking and poverty. Clothing and accessories found in Fair Trade Outfitters come from such places as Mexico, Peru, India, Central America and Thailand.
For example, metal and bead ornaments are made in Thailand by a company called “Pilgrim Imports.” The artisans of Pilgrim Imports work from their homes in villages in Chang Mai province, often combining family needs with the need to work and earn money. Pilgrim Imports brochure tells this story, which is as applicable here on Whidbey Island as it is in Thailand.
“By tying our business success to the dignity and livelihood of a small community in another part of the world, Pilgrim Imports is both globalized and local at the same time.”
Because of some well-placed national publicity, Chocolate Flower Farm is often a stop for tourists. But whether you’re a tourist or a local, it’s hard to resist Marie Lincoln’s sweet smelling shop. Chocolate Flower Farm showcases homemade products around a universally appreciated theme – chocolate — either the color, the scent, or the flavor. Lincoln grows chocolate colored plants and harvests their seeds for sale, makes chocolate scented candles, and also creates chocolate-raspberry jam and body products.
“The benefit of being a small business owner, especially making your own products, is that you’re too small to be ‘normal,’ but the products you make are unique and not found elsewhere,” said Lincoln.
Lincoln moved to an old farm just outside Langley in 2005 with a different business plan which unexpectedly fell through. So she turned her hobby of growing chocolate colored plants into a new business, and opened Chocolate Flower Farm. A few years later she opened The Garden Shed on First Street in Langley.
“For me, it’s all about being a small maker of unique products,” said Lincoln.
WISH BY the Sea was the dream child of two sisters from Utah who love antique farm house and repurposed décor. Lindsay Sorensen and Rachel Jeppesen bought the WISH shop from the former owners four years ago and rechristened it WISH By the Sea. Their goal when they started was to “bring in more local artisans,” said Sorensen.
Today they have over 15 local artists providing an eclectic blend of products ranging from felted ornaments to candles, soaps, lotions and jewelry, all handmade in small batches.
“Local customers come in to visit as well as look at what’s new in the shop,” said Sorensen. “And our vendors have a generosity of spirit about other makers. They’re loyal to us and to each other.”
Kat Soderberg, an employee of WISH, loves finding what customers want.
“It’s important to offer that personal touch and good service,” said Soderberg.
Brown of the Flying Bear Farm floral and gift shop caters to her local
“I know my community’s tastes, and I try to bring in products I know they’ll love,” said Brown. “My favorite thing about running this shop is knowing my customers and what they’ll like.”
For example, in addition to flowers grown on her family’s farm, Brown stocks gift items from local makers, including “amazing jewelry, metalwork, ceramics, paintings and essential oils. We cater to local shoppers and source bio-regionally to cut down on our carbon footprint, “said Brown.
“Shopping locally and supporting small businesses generates large rewards,” said Inge Morascini, Langley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “Not only do the dollars you spend support local business owners, artisans and their families, they stay in the community, supporting our town, our schools and our Island. And, what’s better than shopping with your friends and neighbors, who have stocked their stores with unique items you won’t find elsewhere.”