Why I Shop Local For the Holidays

by | Dec 7, 2020

No, I didn’t always shop local for the Holidays.

And, when I saw this pic of Cynthia standing outside of her decked out Urban Indigo gift shop on Instagram, it reminded me of my evolving shopping attitudes.

The Way it Was

Once upon a very long time ago, in the 80s, 90, and some of the 2000s, I used to go shopping at malls for Holiday gifts. Indeed, that’s what everyone did. And it’s not like there were a lot of other choices.
I’d spend half an hour — more give than take — trying to find parking. Inevitably, I’d see the “Holiday Spirit” descend into evil as drivers fought for parking spaces. Once, I successfully found a parking spot on the outskirts of the mall abyss, I’d hike to the entrance and open the doors into the  hectic hell-space. I’d start to doubt my decision to make the trip. Thusly, the process of wandering through the mall, bouncing off other mallrats as they scurried by, would begin.
Finally, I’d gather my strength and courage to explore a ubiquitous national chain or another, mistakenly thinking they’d have something I could buy for someone — anyone– on my gift list. I would survey the tornado of merchandise. Maybe I’d find a half decent sweater for dad that he might or might now wear. Or, out of desperation, pick up an undistinguished home decoration for Mom. But there was never anything more exciting than that.
The expedition would get exceedingly more difficult as I struggled through the mall to find gifts for friends, relatives, bosses, etc. And it wasn’t possible to chat with one of the harried employees to seek gift-giving advice. Often, I’d leave after 2 or 3 hours of very unsatisfactory shopping. I thought, with dread, “oh my God, I am going to have to go back and do this all over again.”
Talk about the definition of insanity because I knew the next expedition would not reap any better success. How was it that I could wander around 200+ stores — and probably hundreds of thousands of products — and find nothing interesting?

It Got Worse

Then online shopping came along and, voila, the internet behemoth made shopping even more loathsome but, at least, more convenient. At least, I didn’t have to suffer in public. It isn’t an understatement to say that I dreaded Holiday shopping and worse, holiday gift opening. I attributed my failed shopping exploits to my own lack of talent. Wholeheartedly, I believed that I was the worst shopper on the planet — and everyone surely knew it.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, I thought I hated shopping for any occasion.
The “Aha” Moment
But unbeknownst to me, my shop local experiences were different. I used to go to the local stereo shops to peruse stereo equipment and happily chat about music, speakers, and other equipment pros and cons with knowledgeable owners and experienced employees. I could listen to any piece of equipment with my own records or CDs (remember those?). There was also my favorite boutique where the owner and employees knew me, my family, friends, girlfriends, and more. They knew how to pick my wardrobe out and would help me as quickly (or slowly) as I needed. And I found a local wine store that had an unmatched selection of wines with great values at every price range. And they did not carry the usual suspects from conglomerate wineries that you find at chain stores. Of course, I had my favorite bookstore where real people would recommend books based upon vibrant conversations and not soulless algorithms.
So, one day, something clicked — and it wasn’t a one-click shopping click. I was not an unskilled, bad shopper. And even more importantly, I didn’t really hate shopping. The ecommerce behemoth, mall owners, and big box and national retailers were the real problem. The proof was in the successful hauls — and happy experiences — from my shop local endeavors. I’d always go home, excited to open and share the bags of treasures I’d discovered.
Finally, after many clueless dawns, it dawned on me: Why don’t I just shop local during the holiday Season?

Energize Your Shop Local For The Holidays Spirit

And now that the Holidays are upon us, I’d like to share a couple of resources that may inspire your shop local Holiday shopping spirit.
First, an Article from New York Magazine. It’s about local merchants who regularly help their customers find unique and meaningful gifts. Not surprisingly, they have some solid recommendations. Of course, these shops are in the New York Area but you’d be able to visit them online or find similar gifts elsewhere.
The second is our own labor of local love: Our Shop Oakland Indies Listing. It’s all about how to shop local in Oakland — and enjoy local art — during the COVID-19 crisis. You can easily explore 150+ Oakland Proud shops and art galleries and find: Holiday events, SALES announcements; new product news; events and classes; art exhibitions; hours of operation; online shopping capes; shop by appt deets; other local events; epic HOLIDAY SEASON shopping tips; and, all the necessary links to buy local in The Town. It’s a one-stop shop local resource for Oakland.

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