Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

'Tis the season to buy local

Giving gifts that support your neighbours



Yes, yes, we all know the phrase should be "buy locally" instead of "buy local."

But it just wouldn't be as catchy! So let's not let good grammar get in the way of a good concept.

However you want to say it, the annual BC Buy Local week is on to Dec. 3. And even though we're now mid-way through this excellent initiative from the fine folks at LOCO BC, there's still plenty of time to buy local. But why stop on Sunday? There are plenty of good reasons to keep that "buy local" habit going year-round.

LOCO BC, a local business network that started in 2012 in the Lower Mainland as a response to Black Friday, has done some very good research. ("What I hear about Black Friday is 'buy, buy, buy' but I don't hear a lot about why to keep it local," LOCO's executive director Amy Robinson told the Vancouver Observer when the second buy local campaign was launched.)

In B.C., local businesses, on average, recirculate 2.6 times more revenue back into the local economy than do multi-national chain stores (too many to name here!). For every $100 you spend at a locally owned business, $46 goes back into the local economy. Spend 100 bucks at a multi-national chain store, and only $18 goes back.

Local retailers recirculate $45 for every $100 spent, compared to $17 for chain stores; local restaurants, $65 compared to $30 for chains; and local suppliers of things like office supplies recirculate $33 compared to $19 for chains.

The difference in payback to communities is due to several factors. Besides having owners who live right in your community and are more likely to hire locally, locally owned businesses provide more support for things like local events and charities. (The Grocery Store, for instance, supports eight local non-profits and gives employees two paid volunteer days annually so they can support a project of their choice.) Local businesses are also more likely to buy local services and stock local products that recirculate your hard-earned dollars back into the community.

LOCO BC has also developed a research-based definition of what it means to be a local business. To qualify, businesses must be private companies with B.C. headquarters, and more than half of the business' owners must live in B.C. Locally grown products must be just that, grown in B.C., while manufactured products have to be wholly or largely made or processed in the province, meaning at least 50 per cent of manufacturing occurs here.

Since it began, LOCO BC has spread to a number of B.C. communities and partners, including the Squamish Chamber of Commerce, the Township of Langley and Kootenay Employment Services. LOCO BC businesses and partners get to display a distinctive, bright pink circle, but other than Whistler's Farmers' Market, which is a partner through the BC Association of Farmers' Markets, you won't see a lot of pink circles around Whistler this week. There are no LOCO BC partners in town, at least not for now.

But don't let that stop you. As a teaser for my much-anticipated annual list of "gifts that disappear" for the holiday season (more on that next week), here are a couple of ideas from the kinds of local businesses that deserve your support over the holiday season and throughout the year.

Bonus: You can see, feel, taste or touch the products on offer, avoiding those embarrassing online shopping moments, like, eeuugh, I didn't think it would be like that!?

Good books from the Armchair

OK, so Armchair Books wouldn't quite qualify for a LOCO BC pink circle because half or more of its books aren't printed and bound locally, but I consider this one of the most treasured local businesses you can find at Whistler. The store was started in 1982 by Hazel Ellis, in the same spot in Whistler Village Square where it's located today. That, in the sad age of the disappearance of the independent bookseller, is something of a miracle unto itself.

Son Dan now runs the store, which features the finest selection of books about Whistler you could hope to thumb through, as well as lots of books by Whistler authors like Stephen Vogler, Pique's own Leslie Anthony, Stella Harvey, and the late Florence Petersen. I also love that they operate a community book club at Whistler's Public Library on the last Wednesday of every month. And really, isn't a good book a gift that disappears as you pass it along?

To grocer, to grocer, to buy a great gift

People often overlook what an excellent gift-giving resource a good local grocery store can be. With Olive's Community Market, The Grocery Store, IGA, Creekside Market and Nesters Market, Whistler is lucky to have such a great quintet of local grocery stores. They provide locals — and visitors — with the kinds of quality products that say "Whistler" and easily make great gifts, especially locally made products like delicious Lucia Gelato and Nonna Pia's balsamic reductions. (Admittedly Nesters is not as "local" as it once was, but it started right there on Nesters Road, is still owned by a B.C. company, and continues to be the kind of grocery store locals love.)

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who loves to support those local businesses that give our communities character.