Many of us love Sheridan for its charming downtown. We are lucky to have access to great cafes, restaurants, breweries, bookstores, boutiques and beyond, in the shadow of the mountains, housed in beautiful historic buildings that recall our western roots.
But many of us also return home to stacks of smiling cardboard boxes packed with groceries, clothes, appliances and books — items that could be purchased on Main Street.
The call to “shop local” is far from new. But, as online shopping gets easier and easier — thanks to Amazon, you need only push a button or ask Alexa to refill coffee, paper towels and laundry detergent — supporting small businesses is increasingly important.
“I’m sorry, but it’s expensive to shop at such-and-such store,” goes the refrain. “We live in a capitalist society, after all.”
I admit: I am a guilty Amazon Prime member, and not just for the Hot Priest in “Fleabag.” But since moving back to Sheridan, I have been trying to change. Recently, I was struck by a line in Franklin Foer’s excellent — if slightly terrifying — article outlining “Jeff Bezos’ Master Plan” in the November edition of The Atlantic:
“Jeff Bezos has won capitalism. The question for the democracy is, are we OK with that?”
Are we, Sheridan? I think we should push back. As individuals, we may not be able to overthrow a monopoly, but we can vote with our dollars in our community. Here are a few more reasons to shop local:
• You are investing in the economy.
Yes, shopping local is occasionally more expensive than shopping online or at big-box retailers, but it is an investment in the community. Local businesses are dealing with the rising costs of leases or property taxes — and they are often selling products with very low margins.
But when you shop at a local business, you are supporting not only the staff but the business’s associated contractors, accountants, lawyers, cleaners and so on. This ripples throughout the community and circles back to you.
Plus, each purchase made with sales tax feeds back into Sheridan County, supporting our schools, roads and other public developments that improve our way of life.
• It’s better for the planet.
Do I really need to have an industrial-sized bag of dark cocoa powder shipped across the country to my door? Local grocery stores already do that far more efficiently and are open to customer requests.
• You find unique treasures.
Certain items cannot be found in small towns. If they are important enough to you, then a trip to Billings or the internet may be your only choice. But Sheridan’s local businesses also carry items that you cannot find anywhere else. Your Red Bison coffee mug or Western Grace skirt are yours and yours alone.
• Local businesses support local causes.
Think of Sheridan’s dozens of nonprofit events and student fundraisers throughout the year. Small businesses are hit up to donate their products, time and money again and again — and many of them do.
• You build community.
When you run into friends, neighbors and acquaintances by chance at local businesses, you deepen the relationship. Studies show strong emotional ties make us mentally and physically healthier.
• Shopping local is good for the soul of our town.
Without downtown businesses, there is no downtown. By keeping the lights on and maintaining our old buildings, these organizations give Main Street its charm, which makes Sheridan a better place in which to live and to visit.
As we dive into this next decade, let’s make a point to shop, eat and read (hint, hint: Subscribe to your community newspaper!) local. Not everyone has the privilege or the time to make this choice, but almost all of us have the space to make changes, one small step at a time.
Sheridan is worth the effort.