Let’s Try To Define “Buying Local”

So, the first thing I think of when I think of the words, “Buy Local” is a farmer’s market.  Maybe it’s my Midwestern roots that cause that, but the idea of bushels of corn, string beans and fresh ripe tomatoes just make me think LOCAL.  But when I did some research I was found that there were different views of buying local.

I guess I find myself in a bit of a quandary.  So I ask you, when you think of buying local, do you think of the locally owned and operated businesses or the locally owned franchised businesses?

Business dictionary.com defines it as: “a company which provides goods or services to a local population.  Though most often used when referring to a locally-owned business, the term may also describe a franchise or corporate branch operating within a local area.

For me that definition is a bit vague.  I find it hard to equate a franchised business like McDonalds’ or Chick-fil-A, to a locally owned and operated Roma’s Italian Ristorante.  I realize from the business side of things, that start-up money and franchise fees can be considered the same thing. And I know that the difficulty of running a locally owned business can be just as inherently difficult as owning and running a franchise.  But I guess what I want to know is, how you can be sure that you’re truly buying a local product, not just buying a product from a local business.  And is there a difference?

I had an encounter one day, while I was calling on some businesses that were off the beaten path.  It was a pleasant meeting, but was really the genesis of this topic.   As I began my conversation about my company and the products we provide, I remarked that we were a “locally owned and operated company.”  With that the lady told me that she thought it was very important to buy from local companies and that she was currently buying her toner cartridges from a “local company,” Cartridge World.  As we continued to talk, I related my notion of the difference in locally owned and operated companies, and those companies that were franchise or corporate companies that were doing business in our local market.  Here’s what Cartridge World says on its website:

cartridge-world“Cartridge World is the winner of the 2016 Global Brand award by RT Media. Cartridge World is the global leader in selling eco-friendly ink and toner printer cartridges: we help the world print. We launched our business more than 20 years ago. Today, with 1,000 stores in more than 50franchise-direct-global-award countries, Cartridge World is an industry leader, delivering high-performance printing products that help you save time, save money and print great. Guaranteed!”

That doesn’t seem to me to be local; even the award was given to them by a media outlet in Zhuhai, China. That’s just another big company working in our local marketplace. No sour grapes here; I just want to point out the difference, so an informed decision can be taken when your desire is to truly buy locally.

Ukrop’s Bakery and Tom Leonard’s, are both locally owned and operated.  Martin’s, Kroger, and Food Lion, are operating in the local market, but are not local.  Home Depot, Lowe’s and Cracker Barrel are all good examples of fine companies operating in our local area, but they are NOT locally owned and operated companies.  They aren’t even franchises, they are corporation owned.

Now let’s circle back around to my thought on buying local.  If it means something to you to send your children and grandchildren to local schools and see them educated and succeed in the local marketplace, you should feel a responsibility to purchase from companies who do the same.  We’ve served the Richmond and Central Virginia area for over 20 years. Our employees are Virginia educated and we hold deep roots in our industry and our community.  Here’s some of what we learned from some great Richmond examples.  Some of these companies have stayed local, some have expanded to larger venues, while others have seen fit to take or be taken in acquisition. Pleasant’s Hardware (have what your customer needs, when the customer needs it), Ukrop’s (CARE-Customers Are Really Everything), Estes Express Lines (no relationship) (Delivering solutions that exceed expectations).

Small companies struggle when they are overlooked to the favor of the big companies.  Amazon (Headquartered in Seattle, WA) and Staples (Headquartered in Framingham, MA) can get product to you tomorrow. Well, I can get it to you tomorrow just like they can, and I’m locally owned and operated. When you buy from and utilize a locally owned and operated company, you’re not putting money into the pockets of the rest of the world; you’re putting it back into your local business community.  And if you’re reading this and you’re not in a Virginia Community or in Virginia at all, just think of how it is to walk or drive down the streets of so many places in America where the locally owned and operated businesses are closed.  I find it depressing.  My hope is that we can all find a way to keep the locally owned and operated business in business.