Elisha Wells Stroupe
First, welcome to the HoCo Media Spotlight! Hopefully this will be a great place to promote all that is Howard County. Although this is a small community, sometimes we need reminders of all the wonderful things that are right next door.
Second, it’s time to think local.
This is not a judgy post, so please read on. I’m not going to tell you shopping at “this” or “that” big box store is ruining the county or giving your money to corporate monsters. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Even though I know it will help our county if I buy everything locally, I still find myself wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart wishing I had chosen my visit to be at 5 A.M. rather than 5 P.M. to avoid the aggravation of crowds, people who park their carts in my way at every aisle, or the thousand no’s I will have to say as my son asks for everything he sees. Sometimes you just need to pick up the random things like a gallon jug of bubbles for the kids’ bubble machine, a cheap pair of sunglasses because they will be lost or broken within a month, and sour cream for the tacos you need to make for dinner all in one stop so the baby won’t throw a fit as you try to get him in and out of a car seat multiple times.
Don’t feel guilty! That’s life. This post is really just about being aware of small things you can do to support your community and to recognize changes that can be made to your spending habits to grow the local economy.
One example, come to think of it - all of those things might have been at Snoddy’s. They have everything at Snoddy’s, you just have to ask Jimmy, and he’ll pull a rabbit out of his hat. I should know; I once bought spicy pickles, a birthday card, and wedding decorations at one time while at Snoddy’s. Yes, wedding decorations. Galvanized buckets can be used for all kinds of things.
I once read an article that compared money to blood. It’s got to keep moving to be effective. If we purchase things out of our community, it’s gone, but if we purchase in our community, that money might just move around a little bit. If you buy your new tires locally, they might use their profit to take their spouse out to eat at a local restaurant, and that restaurant might buy some produce from a local grower, and that local grower might go see something presented by the community theater, and the community theater might buy something from the used clothing store for their next production, and so on and so on. I’ll be realistic. After your effort to buy local, the next person may have to or chose to buy elsewhere, but you kept money here for one more round.
Here are some ideas that you can think about, and if you’re able to do one of these things that you hadn’t done before, pat yourself on the back because you’ve just kept it local.
Keep date night in a 20 mile radius - Yes, that means no wide theater seats, jumbo bucket of buttery popcorn, and gigantic Coca-Cola. Save the gas, watch a movie from the recliner, pop three bags of popcorn and pour more butter over it, and keep filling up your Yeti with caffeine from Charlie’s Quik-Chek. But really, there are so many things you can do around here to make a memorable date night. Check out one of the local parks like Rickett’s Lake or the Katy Trail and go for a romantic walk. My husband rolled his eyes at that, but ladies, you are in charge of the date, so make them do it. There are also lots of restaurants to check out. There’s even a new pizza place by the winery in Glasgow. Hit them both up! There are also events galore. We’re becoming a more active community, so almost every weekend is full of fun events like concerts, theater, wine walks, games, trivia, dances, wine walks, and more. Yeah, I said wine walk twice, I know, but they are that great. My husband even says so and he generally doesn’t like crowds. Crowds with beverages, now that’s okay. So plan one date this month, and plan it local.
Have a night out with the kids, right here - Show your children what their community has to offer. Thanks to a lot of hard working volunteers, there are lots of children’s events in the county, especially coming up this summer. Glasgow, Fayette, and New Franklin all have movie nights so keep checking back on the calendar for those. Enjoy the outdoors too. You could go kayaking on many of our waterways, ride bikes on the Katy Trail, go bowling in Glasgow, enjoy the PTO Pig Out in New Franklin, or take the kids to many of the local parks that have been set up with disc golf and have a friendly family competition.
Buy gifts local - If you’re buying gifts, definitely check out your local stores and small businesses. Check your friends list on Facebook first. Many people now have retail businesses that you can easily find online. One cool thing that many people have been doing before a holiday or birthday is starting a post to create a list of local businesses, that way they can start with those. Maybe someone might enjoy a gift certificate from the beauty shop in New Franklin, someone might love some antique decor from one of the many shops in Glasgow, or someone, me, I’m talking about me, might just want a pitcher of margaritas for happy hour at Dos Primos and a gift certificate might do the trick. If you think you can’t get a gift for someone locally, try going more practical. Everyone needs something, right? We need gas, food, toilet paper, very important stuff. I’ll admit, adolescents may be difficult to buy for. Just get them a case of bottled water because the time they don’t spend on an Ipad is usually spent participating in a water bottle flip game. You can seem cool (a year late) and look out for their health. If you’re that rotten aunt or uncle that gives them candy and downloads the fart app just to get a laugh, then a fidget spinner is the way to go.
Party plan - One way to support the community is to party plan right here. There are lots of parks to hold family get-togethers, restaurants that will accommodate parties, and even larger venues like Blue Bell Farms for bigger events. From small to large, there are places in the county that will work perfectly. Even holding an event at a park that doesn’t charge still supports the community. You’ll bring in family and friends from other areas that might spend money here, and you’re utilizing recreation areas that are here to serve the community. Think outside the box as well. A friend had a fantastic idea for a holiday celebration. Her family wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with her, but she didn’t want to prep her home for that many people, so she rented the Historic Howard County Jail Inn in Fayette. Genius! There are quite a few B&Bs in Howard County. Plan your next event and leave your home the disaster that you’re comfortable with.
Day to day shopping - It can be done in a small town, to a certain extent. Two arguments that are often given for not shopping locally is that it’s too expensive or that what you want may not be available. If things are too expensive, buy from the sales ad or promotions of local stores or set a budget or number of items that you will try to buy locally rather than from a bigger store. If you have certain items that you can’t find at a local store, something you would buy regularly, ask a manager to stock it.
Services - Remember, there are businesses and people in the county that provide the same services that you drive all the way to Columbia for; you just have to find them. When you take your car in to get an oil change at a chain location, you tend to walk out with a whole list of things that they talked you into and a hole in your wallet because it cost five times as much as you planned. If you go local, that usually doesn’t happen. They are business owners with a schedule and a few workers, so they do what is expected and only suggest what really needs to be done. Those chain stores have many employees on commission, so of course they are going to try to upsell. A few entrepreneurs have also noticed the lack of handymen in the area to do those small jobs you just don’t have time for. Ask around. That to-do list that includes painting the deck, mowing the lawn, fixing the broken screen, or power washing the house can be done by someone else right here in the county. Even better, keep your money in the county by making your teenager do it. That works just as well, except they’ll take forever.
Volunteering - This may sound crazy since no one will be paying you and you may not be shelling out the big bucks, but volunteering is one of the most important ways to “keep it local.” Community groups plan events and fundraisers, which brings money to the county, but more importantly creates a closer community. Take your talents to the next Optimists meeting, historical society meeting, or one of the many other groups in the county. You’ll be surprised at all the cool stuff they are doing and how much they offer the citizens of this county. Don’t be shy! They’ll welcome you with open arms and put you to work in a second.
Online shopping - Wait?! What?! But yes, online shopping is beneficial for the county. Taxes from those purchases come back to the county directly. So if you are trying to keep it local but you really just need (or want) that awesome new smartphone, then get it online. Plan ahead for things like diapers. If you have Amazon Prime or order from Wal-Mart, you can get large quantities with 2-day shipping. I suggest Amazon Prime, so you can use that time you saved driving to the big box store watching episodes of Z, the untold stories of Zelda Fitzgerald. I don’t have Amazon Prime personally, so if you are a nerd, into a show like that, I could bring the wine.
Pick one of these things to try, just one. Come up with one way in the next week that you can keep it local, something that you haven’t done before. If you’re unsure about what places or events can fit your needs, make sure you like the Facebook pages of local businesses and organizations. Also, check out the calendar of events or notes in the local papers to give you an idea. Those are great ways to find out what’s going on in the county and get up-to-date on what’s going on.