In our opinion: Shop locally for better gifts, stronger communities

  • Tuesday, December 17, 2019 3:02pm
  • Opinion

Christmas is a week away, but there’s still plenty of time for residents to find the perfect gifts for everyone on their lists. Even teenagers.

Small businesses across Whidbey Island offer an assortment of unique gifts at a wide range of prices. A reporter in search of one-of-a-kind presents in local shops found gems and crystals, vintage dolls that look like historical figures, felt puppets, owl decorations and candy canes that taste like mac ’n cheese.

Those who like giving the gift of food will find plenty of locally made products, from spice mixes to smoked fish to loganberry pie.

The ultimate unique gift is a work of art and, luckily, the island is home to talented artists who sell original works at galleries, stores and studios. There are even artists who do work on commission, such as a South Whidbey woman who draws caricatures of people’s pets.

You won’t find that on Amazon.

Shopping at small, independent businesses is also a way to support the community and keep downtown areas buzzing with activity. Money spent locally supports local jobs and public services.

Studies show that money spent at local, small businesses ends up circulating and supporting the economy far more than spending at big-box stores. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance reports that, for every $100 spent at an independent retailer, $45 is returned to the community in support of other businesses, compared to $14 from chain stores. For online retail, the return to the local community is just around $1.

The nation runs on small business. About 99.9 percent of U.S. businesses are classified as small. They employ nearly half of the total workforce nationwide and in Washington state.

Buying items produced locally is better for the environment. And getting out and meeting people is how communities are made.

Shopping Whidbey is also enjoyable.

Consider making a day of it. Head to downtown Oak Harbor or Langley, perhaps, and peruse the shops and the holiday decorations. Stop at a coffee shop or a restaurant for a bite to eat. Then head to Coupeville and check out the stores along historic Front Street. Relax with a glass of wine or a beer.

Then, end the day with dinner at one of the many outstanding restaurants.