In the last few weeks, little rectangular “shop local, surf local stickers” have sprung up all over town. Shopping local is a pretty righteous thing do, in my opinion. According to the 3/50 Project, for every $100 we spend at locally, independent stores, $68 goes back to our local economy, compared to $43 if we shop at a chain store. If we spend money online with a non-local company, nothing comes back to help the local economy. According to the Sustainable Business Network, when you shop local, you help create new local jobs and decrease local unemployment. You also help protect our environment by reducing greenhouse emissions from trans-regional and trans-national transportation of goods.
There are even more important reasons to shop at local, independent businesses. Just ask local charities that support causes we all care about what local, independent businesses do for them on a daily basis. Ask Brookline High School students about the local business owners who take the time to mentor them and who care about their future. Supporting local independent business is not just good for our pocketbook; it’s good for our soul.
I’m one of those local business owners who spend as much time as I can, helping to mentor young people in our community. When students ask which causes to take on, I always tell them to do something about what pisses them off. Today I’m going to follow my own advice because I’m royally pissed off.
There is nothing wrong with being a national chain or an international bank. There are some products, which frankly have to be purchased from non-local corporations. But nothing is more galling to me than claiming to be something which you not.
Yesterday I passed by Panara Bread. Not a bad place if you’re on a long drive and need a fast alternative to McDonalds. For one of the largest restaurant corporations in the nation, they also make a point to be socially conscience, but they had the “shop local” sticker on their door. I take it they want us to assume they are local, but the reality is if we were to really take the sticker’s advice, we would get our bread at Clear Flour Bread instead. Abe and Christy own Clear Flour, you can go into their bakery and ask for them by name about 12+ hours out of every day, because they always seem to be there. There is no way Abe or Christy can accurately tell you off the top of their head how many local causes they support, but sometimes it appears that it’s all of them. What about Panara Bread? Panara is headquartered in St. Louis, not Brookline. They have 1,673 company owned and franchise locations operating in 44 states and Ontario with approximately 3.5 billion in annual revenue. So what is Panara’s “shop local” sticker all about?
Which would you call local, Bruegger’s Bagels or Temptations Cafe? Brueggers’s Enterprises, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Threecaf Brands, Canada, Inc. They have approximately 300 restaurants in 26 states, the District of Colombia, and Canada. Breugger’s produces about 70 million bagels a year. Temptations Café has 2 locations in Brookline, Big Lu runs the Coolidge Corner location. his brother Nassib runs St. Mary’s Station and their other brother Michel runs the Huntington Avenue location by Northeastern. Three local Brookline High boys by way of Lebanon, and all are college graduates. Their parents invested their life savings into Temptations Café because they believed in their sons and they wanted them to have a business together. The brother’s mom makes the best Lentil soup in creation every morning. Temptations believes in the virtues of being locally, independent so much they support other local ventures by only purchasing locally made bread, coffee, tea, and pastries. So why would Bruegger’s Bagels have the nerve to put up a sticker declaring themselves local?
There was also a “shop local” sticker on Sleepy’s mattress store. Sleepy’s LLC has 800 locations in 15 states and 7 distribution centers. Doesn’t seem local to me. Since I couldn’t find a locally owned, independent option to Sleepy’s within Brookline’s borders, I did a little research and found The Boston Bed Company. The Boston Bed Company has been locally owned and operated in the Boston area for over 20 years. Their factory is located in Brockton and they have outlet stores in Cambridge, Somerville, Framingham, Stoughton, Lynn, and Burlington. Boston Bed Company among other things makes the bedding for a lot of our local universities.
For years, it’s rankled me to see “Your Local Bank” signs all over Citizen’s Bank. Citizen’s Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland, headquartered in Edinburgh. Maybe if you live in Scotland, they are a local bank, but here they are not. In fact, the controlling shareholder for RBS is the British Government, following a bank bailout. The Bank of Canton, on the other hand is a Massachusetts-chartered mutually owned bank. They have a Brookline location on 166 Harvard Street and their headquarters is in my hometown of Canton. In fact, 177 years ago, then Canton Institution for Savings became the America’s 23rd bank. Paul Revere and his descendents played important roles in establishing and running the bank. I’m talking the one if by land and two if by sea Paul Revere. As a kid I went to the Paul Revere School. Their first location was in a tavern; times were less complicated then. More importantly, the bank is still local and serves our community in a multitude of ways every day. Last year, the Brookline Chamber of Commerce named BOC local branch manager, Elaine Joseph, businessperson of the year. Bank of Canton has played a major role in helping the Brookline Emergency Food Pantry, the Brookline Teen Center, Brookline Library Foundation, Brookline Mental Health Center and many other local causes. Like Abe and Christy of Clear Flour, and Nassib, Michel and Lou of Temptations Café; they are our neighbors.
Our main competitor is part of GateHouse Media, Inc., which is located in Fairport, NY. They own 79 daily newspapers, 257 weekly newspapers, and 405 locally focused websites. There is nothing wrong with that, but what gets my blood boiling is that they call themselves “Wicked Local”. I own BrooklineHub.com. Our office is located in Brookline and I’ve personally lived in Newton since 2003 after living in Brookline for 25 years. We invest our time and energy into our community, helping a number of local causes, and our small staff runs the FeedBrookline campaigns and the BrooklineHub.com Youth Awards almost by ourselves because as corny as it sounds, our community matters to us. If you want something in the publication, you can call me, email me, or come to my office. If you don’t like what you are reading, you can just stop me in the street anytime, I’m always wandering around Coolidge Corner, or Brookline Village or Washington Square. I’ll always listen to anyone who stops me on the street. If you offer me food, I’ll listen even longer. You may think that other company is better but give us credit for one thing; we are who we say we are. We’re wicked local and wicked independent and we care about this community.
I think I’m so pissed off because I hate that the one thing we have is being hijacked. National chains have so many advantages, why do they also have to claim to be local when they are not? “Local” isn’t just a sticker you can take on or off, it’s an investment of time and love. Clear Flour Bakery, Temptations Café, Boston Bed Company, Bank of Canton, Advanced Digital Websites, BrooklineHub.com are just examples of the many great local, independent businesses in our area. To quote one longtime local business, “we don’t have branches, we have roots”.
~ R. Harvey Bravman, Publisher