This Christmas season I made my New Year's resolution a little early. We talk so often about how grateful we are to live in such a vibrant and connected neighbourhood, but once the holiday shopping season begins, like many, we default into old patterns of shopping online at multi-national chains, or taking the easier route and heading to the mall for a one stop shop. So I decided this year, I would break that habit, and begin to practice what I preach - and do the majority of my Christmas shopping for family and friends at local businesses, and support the thriving community where we live.
With a tight budget and busy schedules, it has certainly been a bit of a challenge, but I've remained resolute. My first day of shopping local took me on a walk down Commercial Drive, a hub of small, locally-owned businesses, on a very wet day in late November. To my surprise, aside from some wet feet, the task was much easier than I would have thought. I managed to knock off most of my list for Chris, as well as purchasing all the stocking stuffers for our children, an admittedly easy job at the amazing Dilly Dally Kids, which has everything I could possibly need for my five- and eight-year-old. When the shop first opened, I was so excited to have this little gem in our 'hood, and we are always hard-pressed to not stop in and have a peek at the latest stock. So I was more than thrilled to be able to spend a portion of our Christmas budget to help support this great small business. I ended shopping day one feeling so inspired, having not only nearly completed my shopping, but also supporting several local business in my neighbourhood.
For shopping day two, it was only fitting that I took the kids during a recent PD Day for a ride to pick up their present for Daddy by bicycle. We took a ride out to Granville Island on a sunny, albeit cold day, and spent some time searching for the perfect gift, and something they thought up all on their own. Once again, we found what we were looking for at a local business, and our #ShopByBike trip was a success, complete with some playtime at the park, and homemade hot chocolate when we got home. Since then, I've had a few more shopping days, and for each one, I've managed to keep the money as local as possible.
The idea of shopping local isn't a new one, and many people succeed at it every day. It was important to me this season for a few reasons - being a small business owner myself, I know the struggles of making ends meet, but there was a larger reason for my choice. Too often we hear about shops, cafes and restaurants the surrounding community greatly values that suddenly shut their doors. Sometimes there are other motivating factors, but more often than not, it's because they just couldn't sustain themselves financially. Our family has come to truly value many of the local, mom-and-pop shops on The Drive, that if any of them were to close, it would be a great loss. But unless we frequent these shops regularly, then how can we get upset? After all, they need our support as much as we need them.
There are also some things local shops offer that no multinational ever could. Many local merchants make a point of carrying unique items that you can't find in larger stores, often from local manufacturers. So for me, that means my gift purchases are as unique as the people I am buying for. Then there's the interactions with the shop owners that could never be replicated at a big box store. From the friendly conversation with the owner while paying for my items, to the amazing level of service they provide, the experience of shopping local is unparalleled because the owners and staff truly appreciate you spending time and money supporting them. We recently wrote in Vancouver is Awesome about purchasing our Christmas tree at the local garden centre, Figaro's Garden, and the excellent service we received. That experience only added to the memories of the adventure of buying our tree by cargo bike, and is one we wouldn't have had had we opted for a tree from Superstore or IKEA.
After years of doing so myself, I completely understand how easy, convenient and sometimes necessary online and mall shopping can be. However, I am glad to have risen to the challenge this year, as I'm left with not only a sense of accomplishment, but the feeling that I have purchased some truly meaningful gifts for my husband and our children, which is a sentiment I'd be unlikely to feel as strongly otherwise. I have memories of smiling shop owners as excited about my purchases as I am, of searching through a tightly packed shop with my kids on the hunt for the perfect gift for their Dad, and the satisfaction of knowing almost each and every dollar we've spent has stayed in our community. The spirit of giving holds a new meaning, knowing that in a community where I feel I get so much in terms of happiness and quality of life, I was able to give back, even just a little, and help retain the vibrancy of the place we call home.