By Emma Bott
The Christmas season is upon us and that leads to shopping for others (and, let’s be honest, ourselves too). Shopping local is a concept that more and more people are subscribing to. Local businesses can be online and they can also be your classic brick-and-mortar style shop. Buying local is more than just a feel-good concept; there is a great economic impact to staying local. Local shopping influences the fate of the community and the community is becoming increasingly dependent on it. Money needs to keep moving throughout the economy to be beneficial; when consumers shop local, their money is circulating the local economy rather than leaving it. Another benefit to shopping local is that the business owners are also alerted to the gaps in the economy (such as what is missing). A common argument against shopping local is that the prices are higher, but any higher costs are offset by the increase in local employment. People are buying products from people they know. Local businesses are also more likely to make decisions that directly benefit their consumers. If a Concordia student explored 112th avenue, they would find so many local businesses! I’m going to list a few of them.
Hello Iris Design is a new local business that was started by Ashley Van Der Wilk. It specialises in custom work on vinyl, glasses, signs, and more. Right now Ashley is focused mainly on glassware, but she is expanding her tools and skills to include more home decor-based items. The reason Ashley decided to start her business was because she had been watching the trends of small businesses and creators take off, specifically fellow women who were growing their businesses. Consumers are starting to move away from big box stores to smaller-run local shops who offer more friendly and personalized options. Ashley has always been a crafty and hands-on individual who wanted the opportunity to display and utilise her skills and believes that shopping local is best, because local businesses are run by members of the community who genuinely care for their customers. Big box stores focus more on the bottom dollar value, so the product is not always as unique and personalised. You can check out Hello Iris Design’s products on Facebook or Instagram or contact Ashley either via direct messages on social media or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Hello Iris Design also offers seasonal products in order to remain buyer-friendly. This is especially true for Christmas, where you can purchase something more homemade and meaningful.
Be-A-Bella is another one of the stores on 112th avenue and has been located there for three and a half years. It is a candy and gift store, known as “[t]he shop of of delicious and wonderful things!” The owners are a husband and wife team that have previous experience in the corporate world. The idea for Be-A-Bella came from an English candy store that the husband’s family once owned. I was able to speak personally with the owners about why they believe shopping local is important, and they responded that “local businesses employ people in the neighbourhood and help foster a sense of belonging and togetherness.” In other words, local businesses help build the community. They provide an experience as well as a product, so the customer service quality is increased. Local businesses also thoroughly understand their products; the owners of Be-A-Bella can answer any questions on any of the products in-store and are able to personally recommend products to help you shop effectively. Customers also know what exactly they are buying. The owners of Be-A-Bella want people to know that when you shop local, you make your life and city more charming, livable, and fun. I asked what effect bid sale events have on their business, and they said it does not have an effect at all because Be-A-Bella and other local businesses offer something different and unique. Be-A-Bella often gets into the the seasonal and holiday themes such as Valentine’s Day and Easter, summer and spring. They have a wide selection of candy as well as gifts such as oven mitts, reusable shopping bags, clothing, bags, socks, toys, wallets, and change purses. If you’re unsure of what to buy for someone on your Christmas list but you think they would like the products at Be-A-Bella, they have gift cards! To contact Be-A-Bella, you can go into their store, phone them at 587-521-8085, go to their website www.be-a-bella.com, or find them on Facebook.
Majesty and Friends is a local boutique in the Highlands neighbourhood that carries local brands and a large variety of products. This company believes shopping local is important because “we want to support Edmonton’s economy and local artists!” They are currently carrying Christmas-themed products such as ornaments, Justine Ma candles, and amazing flavours of Violet Chocolate Company. They have gifts and stocking stuffers. This September, Majesty and Friends hosted a Harry Potter-themed pop-up shop. When asked whether online shopping affects their business, Majesty and Friends replied that it doesn’t have much of an effect because their products are handmade and customers know where to get them. People that shop only in malls or online don’t always appreciate handmade artisan goods and therefore are not always the targeted customers of Majesty and Friends. Big sales day shoppers, known as “bargain hunters,” often congregate at malls instead of local shops. This is beneficial because it is hard for artisans to discount their items because of the high cost of materials and labour involved. Discounting their work would cut into the fair wage they make off the product. Majesty and Friends would like to thank people for shopping local! Without people shopping local, artisans and local business owners would not be able to pay their mortgages or feed their families (cats included).
Mandolin Books and Coffee Company is another local business in the Highlands area on 112th avenue. As the name suggests, they are both a coffee shop and a bookstore. On the coffee shop side, they offer what you’d expect from an independent coffee shop: a full selection of specialty drinks made from locally-sourced coffee beans, teas, baked goods, and a small selection of sandwiches and other savoury foods. They serve Catfish Coffee (roasted in Sherwood Park) and sell their beans in retail bags. On the bookstore side, they boast a wide variety of used books, both fiction and nonfiction, and for both children and adults. They look for books that are in such good condition that occasionally, people actually ask if they are new. The selection changes often. They also have a few new books on consignment written by local authors. They are known for being a favourite destination for people who live, work, and study nearby, and Mandolin is proud to be such an important community hub in Highlands. The owner, Lianne, shops locally as much as possible, because it is “more enjoyable and satisfying.” She is always pleased to connect with the vendors and creators of local product. She also knows that local shopping helps build a stronger economy. Mandolin’s most popular items around Christmas are gift-worthy items such as gift cards, collectible books, coffee beans, pottery mugs from Deep in the West pottery studios, and seasonal art as well as greeting cards. They also have an impressive selection of Christmas-themed books that find their way onto the shelves each year. So if you are looking for Christmas recipes, crafts, decor or stories, they might just have the perfect one. And don’t forget their seasonal drinks…care for a Santa’s Sleigh Tea Latte? Coming to Mandolin is as much about the experience of spending time in a cozy space as it is about the products. Half of the products can even be ordered online! Recently, they expanded their business to list some of their more unusual and valuable books on the online site (ABE Books). Big retail sales don’t have that much of an impact on Mandolin, because they are not competing for sales on the same products. The greatest passion at Mandolin is to provide a friendly, comfortable space for people to gather. They hope that everyone who drops in feels welcome and leaves with a smile on their face. That delicious drink or unexpected treasure of a book is just a bonus!
Shopping local is beneficial to the consumer, the business, and the local community. It’s good to know the benefits of shopping local–check out some of these great local businesses this season!