Letters to the Editor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | To those with expendable income

To the editor:

My husband and I own a fair-trade wholesale business in Freeland. We have been in business for more than 18 years. It has never been a big money maker, but it is very gratifying to sell items that directly benefit artisans’ lives.

Owning our business allows us to meet our kids after school, take time off for doctor’s appointments, school conferences and meetings. It also means that we need to pay for our own medical insurance (no small affair), pay higher taxes and live with the daily stress of making ends meet. Still, this is the life we choose and we are grateful for the opportunities we have.

Recently, with the economic downturn (actually, I would call it economic paralysis) our small business, like so many others, has been challenged. I am writing this letter to the people in the United States who still have some expendable income. You see, I believe that you will actually cause more change than the stimulus package or housing reform or restructured the banks. Not that I don’t think those things are important, because I really do. But, we are all scared right now, and those fears are causing us, the people of the United States, to do nothing and wait until the government does something. We can’t wait.

All across America are small businesses. Businesses that you may frequent often or seldom, but they are there, and when you want to use them you count on them. I have news for you: they are disappearing, quickly.

Your local shops, restaurants, copy stores, book stores, printing companies, pharmacies, hardware stores and pet supply stores may be one sale away from closing. You may go into town to find that the place you always get your newspaper and coffee is gone.

You may say, if I only knew THEY were hurting, I would have stopped in more regularly. I will miss that store.

The people that worked in that store are suddenly out of a job. The empty store makes the town look depressed and the more empty stores on a block; the fewer people want to shop there. So more will close. What will happen eventually, IF the town recovers, is that big chain stores may move in when the prices are cheap, thus changing the face of the town permanently.

I am not asking anyone to go into debt by shopping. I certainly am not expressing George W. Bush’s sentiment after 911, “Go out and shop.”

What I am saying is that if you are in a position to purchase items, products that you need, gifts for a birthday or lunch for a friend, instead of looking for the biggest bargain right now and running to Wal-Mart, think about your local businesses.

While big sales and discount stores might offer a slight economic boost, in the long run it will not help your communities. Think of your spending money as power. Power to preserve the businesses that have served you well over the years. Power to keep your town or city employed. Power to keep our small towns alive.

With each business that closes, the ripple effect in a community is huge. From the shipping companies that deliver and pick up from that business, to the packaging and label companies that supply that business, to the wholesalers, importers or local farmers that supply that business and the local workers that work for that business, and the supporting businesses.

Believe me, being in the wholesale business, we are seeing our clients’ stores closing, everyday. We are hearing from other wholesalers that are going out of business, everyday.

If we don’t all do what we can, there may come a point when you say, “Wow, I used to be able to get _______ and now I can’t find it anywhere. I wonder what ever happened to that store or product?”

This recovery is up to all of us. We need to band together and protect what is important to us, to our communities.

So if possible today, without adding to your debt, stop in your favorite shop or restaurant and support the small businesses of America that have been there for you when you needed them. Remember, we are all in this together.

Kris Barker

La Vida Verde, Inc.

Freeland

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