Breaking the Chain, Part II

Kingston's new "Harmacy". Poetic justice, as recalled by Rebecca Martin
CVS. Photo by Nancy Graham.

By Arthur Zaczkiewicz

As we continue to slog through this recession (we’re in a double-dip one, according to some experts), there are a lot of actions citizens like you and me can do to help weather this downturn. As consumers (two thirds of our GDP is driven by consumer spending), we have a lot of power to change the economy – especially on a local level.

Here are five things you can do starting today to improve your household cash flow, bolster the local economy and save money too:

1. Shop local. Sure, you’ve heard this one before. But it’s true. Supporting local businesses instead of chain stores can change the local economy. According to the 3/50 Project, “For every $100 spent in a local, independent, brick and mortar business, more than $68 returns to your community. Spend it with a big box or chain and only $43 returns. Spend it online, and unless you live in the *same* community as the e-tailer, zero comes home.”

So instead of shopping at CVS and Walgreen (we now have two of each in the City of Kingston proper), for example, support the local, independent pharmacy, Neko’s. Instead of buying stuff at Wal-Mart, shop the stores uptown, midtown and downtown. Fleischer’s has great meat. Kingston Natural Foods sells local and organic foods. Uptown, there are several shops that sell women’s apparel and accessories. If you have to drive somewhere to shop, make the trip to Adam’s Fairacre Farms or Davenport’s, which now has local, summer corn.

2. Grow your own. This is a no brainer. A vegetable garden needs good soil, sun, seeds, and water. The time it takes you to go shopping is better spent enjoying the tending of your garden. Plus, nothing tastes as good as home grown tomatoes, kale and lettuce. One four-by-four foot square garden can produce enough food during the growing season for one person. If you don’t have the space to garden, there are several community gardens where you can grow food. Email me at and I’ll connect you to the garden stewards.

3. Buy in season and in bulk. As just mentioned, summer corn is now available. Consider buying a sack of corn and spending an afternoon with your family blanching and freezing it. This can also be done with other veggies and fruits, and sustain you and your family through the winter. Learn more here.

4. Hold a DVD and book swap with your neighbors. Instead of doling out money on movies and books, consider having a swap with friends and neighbors. It’s fun to see what they have in their collection, and it’s a nice way to socialize too.

5. Leave the car home. Before you get in the car to drive anywhere, consider walking or biking where you have to go. This is not only a brilliant way to save money on gas, but it’s good for your health and the environment too.

Can you think of any of your own? Please share by commenting below!

7 thoughts on “Breaking the Chain, Part II”

  1. Nancy: photo credit updated.
    Paul: Yes…saw that.
    I should also mention that the “traditional drug chain stores” also happen to sell a lot of candy, tobacco, junk food and soda. Another alternative is to check out natural healing, such as New Leaf and others. Does anyone know if Hilary Thing still has a business in Kingston?
    –Arthur Z

  2. “Supporting local businesses instead of chain stores can change the local economy. For every $100 spent in a local, independent, brick and mortar business, more than $68 returns to your community. Spend it with a big box or chain and only $43 returns.” – The 3/50 Project

    On first glance that looks like a good reason to “shop local.” But looking at it deeper, it’s not really all that clear….

    Local stores don’t have the buying power of the big boxes – that makes local retailer prices quite a bit higher than those of big boxes. Does it help the local economy when consumers can’t afford all they need?

    If everyone stopped shopping the big boxes they would close. Wouldn’t that put hundreds out of work? Would the local retailers (and maybe new local retailers) hire all the unemployed?

    If the big boxes did close, what would happen to property tax rates? Maybe the increased revenue from parking tickets would balance things?

    The big boxes are very approachable for donations to Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, school groups, etc. Would local retailers pick up the slack if big boxes were forced out by lack of customers?

    Again, assuming that a lack of customers would force the big boxes out, what about the convenience of 24-hr Wal-Mart and Hannaford? Would local retailers learn to be responsive to customers needs and desires? I remember being in uptown Kingston on a Sunday afternoon. I was approached by a tourist family with a question, “Isn’t there anything open?’ The area claims to be a tourist attraction, yet not a single store was open on a Sunday afternoon. I thought to myself, “How dumb is that? They want tourists yet they’re not open when tourists are here!”

    I could go on and on. It seems to me that “buy local” to help the economy is a rather simplistic and half-baked idea.

  3. Bill W,

    Not half-baked at all. Shopping local simply insures that more money goes back into the local economy. For example, when the shop down the block needed graphic design for its storefront signage, they hired a local vendor — a Kingston business, which employs local folks. But when a large chain store needs a sign designed, they tap their in-house designers who work out of the store’s regional or national headquarters — places like Bentonville, Ark. or Eden Prairie, Minn. Far away from Kingston.
    If the big box stores — Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Walgreens, CVS, etc. — all closed, people would simply shift their spending elsewhere. And the jobs would shift too. If Wal-Mart closed tomorrow, people would still need to buy clothes and food, right? People wouldn’t go around naked and hungry just because Wal-Mart closed. The demand doesn’t evaporate. And that’s the point. A shift to buying and shopping local is a way to sustain our community for the long term, and make it thrive.
    Looking at it from a micro-local and tax base perspective, the benefits are huge. The City of Kingston generates about $11 million in sales and use tax each year, which goes right into the spending plan. I’m not sure of the break down, but let’s say $6 million of that is derived from sales tax alone. If shoppers shifted their spending to Kingston-only businesses (that means excluding the chain stores on Ulster Avenue, but including the chains in the City of Kingston proper) by just 10 percent, that portion of the tax base would rise $600,000. And that sounds like a great reason to shop and buy local.
    Arthur Zaczkiewicz


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