I grew up without the convenience of chain stores. Once or twice a year, my family would make a trip to the ‘burbs to visit these giant stores, with the fancy toy aisles tucked in the back. It was always an interesting, but overwhelming, experience. Then, my parents told me a giant shopping center, now called Lennox Town Center, was being built within walking distance from my house.
The novelty wore rather quickly after it opened and I realized how much I missed my monthly trips to The North Market, where I could always expect a free blueberry bagel. I had exchanged free samples of local food for five-minute demos of overpriced video games. This experience allowed me to fully appreciate the diamonds in the rough at the local used record stores and the clearance racks at local boutiques.
Everything you can buy at a chain store is good. It is created, measured, tested, and reviewed by experts to make sure that it is good. Since Edward Bernays invented modern consumerism in the 1920s, businesses have figured out every detail of a want society to an exact science. But good is rarely great. Personal taste should not be so mathematical. The best gifts have personality and characteristics that make them one of a kind.
Not only will shopping locally this holiday help you find such thoughtful, unique gifts, doing so also supports our small business owners and contributes to our local economy. If everyone changed just 20 percent of their buying habits this season, the Columbus small business community would explode.
The following are my top ten tips when shopping locally in Columbus:
1. Ask your friends where they buy the items that reflect their personality. Often, you will hear big name stores. However, I think you will be surprised to hear how many local shops they have secretly fallen in love with, but haven’t had a chance to visit in awhile.
2. Know your audience. My father is the hardest person to shop for because he has everything he needs. So I have to find things he wants. For him, I go to Lost Weekend and What the Rock!? to find music-related memorabilia that reminds him of when he was my age. For Alex, my business partner and best friend, I’m getting a bottle of Columbus-distilled OYO Vodka because Columbus and vodka tonics are two of his favorite things.
3. Don’t forget: art can make a great gift. Columbus has hundreds of amazing artists and, although art preferences depend on individual taste, it’s fun to find pieces you think they’ll like.
4. Gift cards are a great way to give an experience, as well as a present. If you do not know what to get someone, gift cards to places like Weiland’s or The Hills Market are practical options.
5. Customize your gifts. Nothing says “I put forth effort to buy you something” better than a custom T-shirt from one of our awesome local shops or a bottle of customized wine from Signature Wines.
6. Determine whether your gift recipient needs anything. Bike tune ups from B1 Bicycles or Paradise Garage, or car tune ups from Don’s Car Care, are great ways to relieve stress for someone who could use a little help this holiday season.
7. Advertisers on locally based websites are great sources for presents. In addition to ColumbusUnderground.com, check out Homemade Ohio, a new partnership between the Small Business Beanstalk and Nancy Monti Barcalow of Catalyst Partners LLC that enables schools and organizations to sell locally made products for profitable and fun fundraising programs.
8. Use locally run daily discount sites, like Fudha.com or BigDealColumbus.com, to get terrific deals on local products. Big Deal Columbus is a new partnership between the SBB and Columbus Alive! to bring you discounts, worth 50 percent or more, every day. You can give the product/service as a gift, or you can buy and send the coupon to a loved one. Using these programs not only helps the business from which you bought the coupon, but all the businesses involved.
9. Leave your comfort zone and visit other locales. Central Ohio has many hidden gems, from Historic Dublin to Gahanna’s Creekside area. German Village has one of the greatest book stores in the country and Worthington has enough boutiques to enjoy for days. Additional great communities include Clintonville, Powell, Grandview, the Short North, the Brewery District, Grove City, Pickerington, and Westerville.
10. Use your SBB card. We now have more than 300 businesses that give discounts every day just for shopping locally. If you do not yet have a card of your own, you can order one for free at TheSBB.com . And if you use it frequently, you’ll be able to save enough money to buy a local gift for yourself, as well!