There’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both designed to kick off the holiday season with a huge transfer of cash from your pocket to faraway retail giants. If the thought of either of these days fills you with a sense of dread, there’s another option.
In between, there’s “Shop Small Saturday,” the day first dreamed up by American Express eight years ago, and falling this year on November 25. It’s a day for shopping in your neighborhood, making purchases from people whose children go to school with your kids, or who volunteer with the Fire Department, or who go to your church: people who put in the long hours it takes to make a small-town business profitable.
There’s no question that shopping locally benefits the community. The American Independent Business Alliance figures that 13.6 percent of the dollar you spend at chain stores works its way back into the community (the percentage being nearly zero for cyber retailers) while nearly half of the dollar you spend at a locally owned store continues to bolster the economy.
There are plenty of other reasons to shop where you live. Local businesses form a large part of the character of any community; they offer human contact and service; they use local contractors; and they’re here because they love the community and don’t want to spend their lives commuting.
American Express has developed free materials for merchants and, with other stakeholders, has measured the response throughout the country. It’s been a success, with more people each year saying they’ve become aware of the advantages of local shopping. But perhaps the biggest beneficiaries are the shoppers who take a day to stroll around their local retail community for the first time, meeting real people, discovering locally made products, crafts or art; eating at one of our coffee shops, diners or restaurants, grabbing growlers, cider, wine or bourbon produced locally, and enjoying life in the generous spirit of the holidays.
The American Express promotion encourages shoppers to buy at least one gift from a local merchant, but with a little care, you should be able to find something for everyone on your list.
At Piedmont Place, Over the Moon bookstore has small items as well as books for gifts, including funny socks and oven mitts, toiletries, cards and calendars. Morsel Compass will stay open until 7 p.m. for hungry shoppers on “Shop Small Saturday” and feature turkeys from Heritage Bronze in holiday specials. At Smojo’s, Beth Harley will offer special baked goods as well as her healthy smoothies, juices and salads. Across the hall, The Blue Ridge Bottle Shop has wine, beer, coffee, candy and small gift items. They’re expanding the wine selection and will have special promotions throughout the season. And what kid wouldn’t like a gift certificate from The Crozet Creamery?
On The Square, the Crozet Hardware Co. has a selection of bird feeders, birdhouses, bird seed and other paraphernalia for backyard birders, and there’s the very latest in flashlight technology for those seeking gifts that kids love and really use. At the Parkway Pharmacy, you can splurge on Ahava Dead Sea salt concoctions for someone in need of pampering, or find a surprisingly large selection of children’s toys and games as well as cards and wrapping paper.
Crozet has become a bit of a center for self-improvement and there are those on your list who might need it. Surprise them with a gift certificate from ZSP Crossfit, Santosha Yoga, ACAC or A Place to Breathe; or a membership in the Crozet YMCA. If they need some tangible inspiration to get moving, the Crozet Bicycle Shop or Crozet Running Co. can help with ideas. If cultural improvement is more of a priority, talk to Crozet Arts about upcoming classes.
Headed south for the holidays? Apples get worse and worse the farther you get from the Blue Ridge. Bring a bag, a box or a bushel of apples from Henley, Carter or a Nelson orchard so your relatives can find out what real apples taste like. To save room, haul the apples in cider form from Bold Rock and they’ll thank you. Or visit Virginia Vintage Apples and Albemarle Ciderworks in North Garden to find what kinds of apples and cider were available years ago.
Put together a box of locally made products, with bread, cheese, fruit, coffee and wine, all made here. Good candidates for the cheese are old-fashioned gouda from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, found at the monastery or online (olamonastery.org) and “Simply Cheddar” cheese balls made in Waynesboro and available online (simplycheddar.com) or at the Crozet Market. While you’re there, grab ciabatta, baguettes or loaf bread from Goodwin Creek. Baked treats are also available down Rt. 151 at Rockfish Baking Company in Nellysford, or in Crozet at Cakes by Rachel on Jarmans Gap Road, or from “Bite Baking Company,” a Crozet home-based bakery you can find through Facebook.
The Crozet Market offers a large selection of locally made products, as does the Batesville Market and Greenwood Gourmet. Although the Rockfish Valley Community Center won’t be open for “Shop Small Saturday,” visit there for Nelson County’s finest homemade and homegrown produce, meats, cheeses, jams, baked goods, plants, greenery and arts and crafts on Saturday Nov. 4, and December 2 and 16. Come early, as the indoor market closes by noon.
If you’re the type who likes to present the family with one huge present, consider a kitchen remodel with the help of the folks at Blue Ridge Building Supply, or find the perfect power tool there for the handy people on your list.
You’d be surprised at the type and quality of used items that end up for sale. Make it a point to stop by The Green Olive Tree, Crozet Antiques and Claudius Consign and Design while you’re shopping small, and also take a look at the new and unusual items featured in these shops.
There are dozens of artisans on the Monticello Artisans Trail between Ruckersville and Lovingston. More than 40 of them will show their work in 20 working studios Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 11 and 12. Find a map at www.artisanscenterofva.org; or save some time and look at the carefully curated collections at the Artisan’s Depot in Crozet, or the Barn Swallow. Art lovers can also buy local art (and frame it) at the Art Box. Don’t overlook a collection of high-quality art supplies as a gift for the artist or would-be artist.
It goes without saying that your day should begin with locally-roasted coffee at one of Crozet’s coffee shops, or lunch at one of our diners or ethnic restaurants; and end with a leisurely meal at our selection of wonderful but unpretentious dining venues. Your patronage will keep them open during a difficult season.
Don’t wait until “Shop Small Saturday” to order a Kelly Bronze turkey from Kelly Bronze.com or a River Oak turkey from the Batesville Market. If beef is more your idea of a holiday meal, talk to the folks at Ragged Branch Distillery; or surprise your family with the famous fried chicken from Brownsville Market. You’ll end your day of shopping small with gifts for all and a renewed belief in community and the holiday spirit.
The Crozet Gazette’s annual local photography calendar makes a great gift and will be available at local stores in December.