Article by Robin Moyer Chung
Originally published in Westport Lifestyle
“Buy Local” is good. It helps. It ensures that our small businesses stay alive and behemoths like Amazon and Walmart can’t trundle in and stuff themselves into the quaint storefronts dotting Main Street.
At least we imagine it does.
Realistically, though, “Buy Local” isn’t churning out the miracles we hoped it might… sorry to destroy any dreams you may have of shopping your way into sainthood. Buying a pair of socks isn’t going to pay off someone’s back-rent even if you consider them really expensive socks. Purchasing a six-pack of foot massages isn’t catapulting anyone into the black. And because you’re not wearing suits and whatnot, your friendly neighborhood dry cleaner is delighted you’re saving a fortune on dry cleaning. Oh, wait – no. They’re not.
“Buy Local” contributes to our town, so please continue to shop the community. But many businesses are still struggling. As we scramble for a Covid vaccine they’re scrambling for a financial antidote. Now there may be a solution. Not an easy solution, because Covid is a poisonous, multi-tentacled monster that wraps its oily appendages around everything that’s good and fair in this world. Still, it’s a start:
“Save Local” is the initiative of Lori Dodd, owner of Dream Spa in Westport. It takes “Buy Local” one step further by asking people, quite simply, for donations to support and potentially save vicinal businesses.
“I know it’s a touchy subject, asking for support from the community,” she admits. But with fewer sales and the additional costs of PPE, cleaning supplies, and air filters, options are limited.
Everyone was hit hard, but businesses selling services – massages, facials, dry-cleaning – were especially slapped down during quarantine. From these businesses, people purchase “time.” If no one buys the hour, then the hour is gone forever and it’s impossible to recoup the cost. Gift certificates bring in money and may help bridge a deficit, but at some point the business must pay staff to deliver the service when no additional revenue is forthcoming.
Obviously, it’s a polarizing initiative. None of us are anxious to donate our money to, say… well, I won’t name anything specific but you get the idea. For many us, charity means something larger than keeping a boutique gym afloat. However, it’s not meant to replace philanthropic initiatives. It’s meant to offer aid to businesses you love, who may otherwise be unable to survive.
Her idea sprang from an unexpected visit from an attorney last May. “He handed me a check for $5,000 and told me his clients were giving money to their favorite local businesses. It was wonderful!”
The DMA liked the message and is partnering with her in the initiative.
Businesses can log onto SaveLocalWestport.com to sign up. For a small fee, they’ll be included in the signage and marketing and be granted a part of “Save Local” donations.
“If you love a local business,” Lori explains, ”help save it!”
It’s a challenging ask but these are challenging times. As Lori concedes, “It was hard for me to open up and say this, to ask for money, but if you can’t ask your community that relies on your business services, who can you ask?”