Small Talk

Buying local

December 10th, 2012

This Christmas, I've been making a concerted effort to buy local. This is my good-citizen suggestion to you to consider the same.

There's not one singular incident that happened to get me to arrive at this conclusion, and it's probably an assortment of several things: maturity that develops a growing feeling of ownership in a community; an awareness of small and local businesses from a personal standpoint of being married to a small business owner and being old enough to have a fair number of friends who own businesses (FYI don't assume by this that I'm Republican); and just being around long enough to have heard that "Buy Local" slogan enough years to finally have it sink in.

Glass rings shaped like candy; details at

Glass rings shaped like candy; details at

For the past three, four, five years or so, I've moved in this direction, and every year I've lived it a little more. I've come to eschew the coupons for Macy's (and I have loved Macy's for decades!) in favor of Cinnamon Girl or Kailua Verde, even if it means paying more. For my plant purchases, I try to shop at Ko'olau Farmers' locally owned co-op instead of national chain giant Home Depot. Craft fairs are great, too.

Kiln glass by Jen; details at

Kiln glass by Jen; details at

I said I try; I didn't say I get it 100 percent of the time. I still go to Costco on occasion. I will buy things from a franchise operation if I'm under deadline to get a gift.

I wonder if I've subconsciously tapped into the energy of a much larger movement? Last summer, the first concept of a "cash mob" appeared in suburban New York. Basically, an organizer selects one local store to be "mobbed" by shoppers in a one day period. Since July 2011, it's picked up steam - and press - across the country. A take off of the flash mob, this one actually has a civic goal- to support the local economy.

According to the November 5, 2012 issue of Time magazine, "Studies have shown that spending money at local businesses has a bigger impact on the local economy than shopping at big chains. Even the most spendthrift cash mob can't make a business in a single day, but many mobbed owners say their real payout came over time, through repeat customers and increased name recognition. 'We depend on word of mouth,' says Scott Duennes, whose natural-food store, Nature's Bin, was mobbed last spring. The siege raised the store's profile and turned first-time shoppers into second-timers, he says."

To be clear, I'm not trying to organize a cash mob here. I think the idea is great and I'll try to support one if I'm told, but I haven't the time to host one. I'm just heartened by the reminder that local spending creates a positive ripple effect.

Isn't that a warming sentiment appropriate for the holidays?

6 Responses to “Buying local”

  1. Ken Conklin:

    "Buying local" is a very complex topic. Does "local" mean only that the store owner is local, or does it mean that the products are locally made? A product being locally made -- does that mean only that parts from foreign places are assembled locally, or does it mean that the parts themselves are manufactured locally and use materials that are locally grown or created? The Pacific Handcrafters Guild has wrestled with that question for many years.

    The "buy-America" campaign seems patriotic. But perhaps the most ridiculous example of "buy America" is the Jones Act which causes a huge increase in the cost of living in Hawaii because it basically requires that the ships which bring stuff to Hawaii must be owned, built, and staffed by U.S. citizens or else must follow routes that are ridiculously uneconomical, like making a stop at Palmyra (where?!) to travel between Hawaii and California.

    Talk with Claus about whether it would be a good idea to sell only caskets which are built in Hawaii and use wood grown in Hawaii. Maybe Claus could help out the Carpenters Union by hiring local workers to build the caskets he sells.

    Personally, I rarely buy food at Mom-and-Pop stores because the prices are too high and the selection is limited. Hooray for Safeway! Remember how excited people were when KMart opened its first store in Iwilei a few years ago? Huge mobs came for goods and prices previously unavailable.

    However, one of the things that makes Chinatown so attractive is all the little Mom-and-Pop stores (and their owners and customers). Just last Tuesday I was there and visited a small store to buy a baggie of yellow powder for making Chinese hot-hot mustard (way better than French's or Grey Poupon or the fake Dijon stuff). No need for nettie pot when you slather your sausage with plenny Chinese mustard! And the process of finding the mustard and interacting with the people was even more enjoyable than eating it.

  2. lowtone123:

    Buying local means either buying a locally made product or service or buying from a local merchant. Either way you are helping the local economy and ensuring more money stays in Hawaii.

  3. zzzzzz:

    You don't have to avoid big boxes to buy local.

    Costco carries quite a bit of local stuff, especially food. I regularly buy locally grown produce (bananas, lettuce, eggplant, cucumbers, pineapples) there, as well as locally produced Portuguese sausage, tofu, kim chee, and baked goods.

    Home Depot carries indigenous and endemic plants sourced from local nurseries.

  4. Laurie Baron:

    Thank you Diane! And thank you for writing about it too.

    Local artists, artisans & crafters offer a tremendous variety of beautiful work, sometimes surprisingly affordable. Thanks for considering them first this season!

  5. M:

    Hello Diane,
    We try to buy local when ever it's possible. We go to the farmers market once a week to buy our produce.

  6. Lilian:

    Hola Diane,
    Muchisimas Gracias por soportar todos los negocios pequenos, especialmente por mencionar
    Kailua Verde,
    Feliz Navidad,
    Que Dios Te Bendiga a ti y a toda tu fammilia. Lilian

Leave a Reply

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email

Recent Posts

Recent Comments