Against the Chain

Against the Chain
Kevin Bond
May/June 2008

In our society that is becoming increasingly homogenized, it is important for local businesses to thrive in order to keep our communities unique and vibrant. While major chain stores like Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, and Publix offer all of the necessities for our day-to-day needs at comparatively cheaper prices than your local mom and pop, it is the latter that will ultimately keep our local economies healthy, bring us closer to our neighbors, and serve us socially and environmentally responsible goods and services.

With the influx of new residents to the city of Gainesville, and for others who may not have thought about it, this article was written with the intention to encourage the reader to shop local.

Books Inc. right on the corner of NW 13th St. and 5th Ave. has been in existence for nearly two decades in Gainesville and is a shining example of everything that is beneficial about a local business. Books Inc. functions as a new and used bookstore with a vegetarian café called Booklovers Café, a brief walk from campus. The owners, Anne and Phil Haisley, have been two active figures in the community since moving here 20 years ago. The Haisley’s both agree that the most important reason to shop locally is to keep the money spent circulating throughout the community. Anne says on average the maximum amount of money that will make its way back to the local level when you shop at a corporate chain store is $0.13 on the dollar. Anne says, “Every dollar spent local stays local.” The majority of the Booklovers Café’s ingredients and produce comes from local suppliers, Rainbow Produce and Ward’s Supermarket.

With the recent controversy involving the community’s fight against the East Side Wal-Mart, one of the issues heavily discussed is the idea of customer service. The idea of walking into a local store, and recognizing the same person builds a staff-patron trust that is a component of building strong ties in the community. This same trust is largely absent from major chains that are simply too large with a staff that is too transient to provide this stability.

There are many local businesses here in Gainesville that have strong concerns for environmental and sustainability issues. “We’re helping to make the local global,” says Shem Fleenor an employee at the newly opened SW 2nd St coffee shop Volta. Shem explained that Volta serves Intelligentsia brand coffee because of their “direct trade” policy, which sends representatives directly to the coffee bean farms to make sure that the commitment to healthy environmental and sustainable social practices is being upheld.

It is this concern for the environment, and for issues of globalization that set small businesses off from major corporate chains. The following (and apologies to others we many have missed) are great alternatives to your everyday boring major chain (many located within walking distance from campus):

Eateries (all of which are Vegan and Vegetarian friendly): Gator Dawgs, Booklovers Café, Reggae Shack, Buddha Belly, The Top, Leo’s By the Slice, Farah’s, Satchels, Steamers, Burrito Bros., El Indio, Harvest Thyme, Gyros Plus, the Jones, NewWok, Plaza Coffee Shop.

Coffee: Maude’s, Volta, 2nd Street Bakery, Sweetwater Coffee-roasters (buy their beans at Wards)

Bike Shops: Mr. Goodbike, Recycled Bikes, Spin Cycle

Music: CD’s and More, Wayward Council, Sharpe’s, Hyde & Zeke’s

Ice Cream: Sweet Dreams, Karma Creme (opening soon)

Bookstores: Books Inc., Goering’s, Wild Iris, Omni

Household & gifts: Indigo Green, Alternatives, D's Tees & Tings

Farmer’s markets:

Wednesday afternoons, 4-7 pm, Union Street Farmer’s Market at the Downtown Plaza in Gainesville.

Saturdays 8:30am-1pm, Alachua County Farmer’s Market, 5920 NW 13th St. (at the corner of SR 121 and US 441.

Satrudays, 8:30am-noon, Haile Plantation Farmers Market, SW 91st Terr, Haile Village Center.

Thursdays, 2-6, High Springs Farmer’s Market at James Paul Park, Main Street and NW 2nd Ave.

[See "A Boss Is Still a Boss" for a response to this article. --webmaster]

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