Blithe & Vine owner Liz Spratlin (right) assists a customer in her Fondren Corner store.

by Paul Wolf, publisher

I love local. And not for the sake of being politically correct or popular.

I love the idea of someone carving out a niche for themselves and forging ahead and fighting to survive in a tough marketplace. And when they do, it makes me happy. That’s why I have been excited about ‘Shop Small Business Saturday’, coming this Saturday to retailers nationwide and here at home in Fondren

I remember back to last year, where I set out to do my part. Mind, you, this is not out of my routine to patronize local small businesses. But on that day in 2012, the day after the mass hysteria of Black Friday, I made a concentrated effort to do so.

First stop, Good Samaritan Center’s thrift store, N.U.T.S., in neighboring Midtown. While I didn’t find anything that suited my personal tastes that day, I do realize what a neat place it is and that treasure hunters would certainly be at home there.

My next stop was Sal & Mookie’s. There’s certainly nothing unusual about my going there. But on that day, it had extra special meaning. Jeff Good and Dan Blumenthal have earned their rightful place in the Jackson food scene and this place is a gem.

I decided that day was a good one to seek out a kitchen utensil I needed. It was suggested that I try Montgomery Ace Hardware. Indeed, they have a wonderful kitchen shop that seems to be a major draw (and at their sister store in Maywood Mart, there’s an even bigger kitchen section). I made a note to come back. While there, I picked up a cleaning product I needed, too.

I shopped small and put about $50 in the pockets of LOCAL, mom & pop operations who will take my money and reinvest it in this very community. That may come in the form of paying their local accountant or local food supplier, or buying fuel from a LOCAL gas station or simply paying an employee’s wage. I feel good about my buys and where I bought them because I know I’m supporting the local community.

But I like some chain stores, too

Having preached my local mantra, don’t call me a hypocrite if you see me in a so-called “big box” from time to time. There are some times when there is something to be said for a 40% off sale or a “grab it all at once” shopping trip. But I do my best to keep those buys to a minimum and keep my money between Pearl Street and Northside Drive.

I had a small town retailer friend tell me one time that shopping in the box was ok — every now and then. He said “I don’t have to have all of your money, I just want my fair share.”  Indeed I believe that is a fair statement. Local is best when you can, and local is really whatever it means to you. For me, I start in Fondren and branch out from there. I always look for an American made option first and then choose based on quality.

Ron Chane’s Slavebird boutique has become a local haven for men looking for a pair of jeans, a shirt or even a pair of underwear, similar to what I would find at Banana Republic or Gap. Chane wins, assuming he has the styles I like at reasonable prices and the A+ customer service I expect (and he does). It’s to his advantage to provide the best possible product and service to EARN my business.

That’s why I like what John Evans at Lemuria Books said to me one time: he believes businesses here (in Fondren) should earn business and not expect it because they are local. “If a chain is doing a better job,” he said, “they deserve your dollars. If I add value to your life, then ‘shop local’ makes sense. We take pride in what we do, and I hope you’ll let me stick around and do it for a long time.” Well said, John, well said.

The Bottom Line?

Support those who support your community. Shop small business, but expect quality and personal service in return. In Fondren, I believe, like no where else, our business owners specialize in this very thing. See them Saturday – and everyday – for your holiday shopping – and thank them for being in the business of local.