Why Buying Local is Worth Every Cent

Have you done any local shopping lately? It’s easier in the summertime when you can places and don’t mind taking extra time to stroll on the streets, or to head downtown rather than to the strip malls on the outskirts. Do you agree? What do you find to be the easiest thing to purchase locally?

Check out this new “Buy Local” infographic. (Who doesn’t love infographics?!)

Click to Enlarge Image

CustomMade Buying Local Infographic

Why Buying Local is Worth Every Cent Infographic by CustomMade

Previous post on Buy Local posters. Will you make an effort to increase your local business spending this summer? Just $10 per month to a local business, as opposed to a big chain? You can do it!

A Replacement Bridge

Sometimes in transportation, our bridges cannot be saved (which can only be said after a Section 4(f) evaluation). Reasons often relate to safety or structural deficiency or loss of integrity, among other items. It’s a complex law and evaluation. Large bridges like the Champlain Bridge are rare projects; often bridge projects are much smaller.

Remember the Newfane Bridge?

The 1945 Newfane Bridge.

Recently I drove through Newfane and saw its replacement. It was a historic bridge located within a historic district. To the public this means that a bridge replacement (if determined to be the only feasible and prudent alternative) will be a context sensitive solution; i.e., compatible with its surroundings.

Looking east. May 2013.

Looking east. May 2013.

Looking to the west. May 2013.

Looking to the west. May 2013.

The approach rail.

The approach rail.

The railing, endwall, and approach rail.

The railing, endwall, and approach rail.

The endwall with guardrail inset.

The endwall with guardrail inset.

Side view of the bridge girder and railing.

Side view of the bridge girder and railing.

New bridges will not look like the old bridges due to engineering designs, traffic safety, modern vehicles, modern materials, etc. How do you, as a historic preservationist, or a community member feel about historic bridge replacement?

Small Versions of Big Boxes

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A new Walmart Express in the southeastern United States.

Many of us are familiar with the debates of new Walmart stores (other big box chains apply here, too) and the effects that such development and business will have on existing business and surrounding communities. And then there is the dollar store debate as well, such as the example in Chester, VT. Relatively new to the mainstream discussion are smaller versions of these big box stores. Previously, they’ve been smaller versions in order to fit into the urban markets, such as the Walmart Neighborhood Market and the Walmart Express. A bit of information about the two from a USA Today article:

In the U.S., Simon said, Wal-Mart’s small stores, which range from 10,000 square feet to about 55,000 square feet, compete well with a broad variety of merchants.

Neighborhood Market store have generated a 5% increase in revenue at stores open at least a year for the first half of this year. That’s more than double the growth rate of the Wal-Mart’s average store.

Express stores are less than one-tenth the size of Wal-Mart supercenters and offer groceries, general merchandise like tools, and pharmacies. Neighborhood Markets are more than twice the size of Express stores and offer perishable food, household supplies and beauty aids as well as a pharmacy.

According to another article, 40% of new Walmart openings will be these smaller scale stores.

Clearly, these Walmart Express stores sound like many dollar stores and chain pharmacies. Is this just another name to the mix of such stores? Or is this something new to which community planners, preservationists, citizens, etc. should pay attention on a different level?

Will these stores be considered for historic downtown locations, rather than sprawl? The store in the image above demonstrates that some are a part of the chain store sprawl. And design review doesn’t seem to be in effect in that example. If a Walmart Express (or any similar store) were willing to fit into an existing building block, would you be more favorable to it than if it were simply sprawl? Or do you think that would simply be empowering these big box chains, creating a monopoly, and hurting Main Street and small business owners?

What would you do in your community?

Preservation ABCs: Q is for Quality of Life

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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Q is for Quality of Life

A historic, walkable downtown like this one of Barre, VT might fit your quality of life.

A historic, walkable downtown like this one of Barre, VT might fit your quality of life.

Historic preservation aims to preserve the quality of life which a community values and to help foster and improve quality of life where possible. It is important to understand that quality of life means different things to everyone. Some people prefer bustling cities with reliable public transit and walkable neighborhoods. Others prefer rural country living with a small center of town. Community events might be important. Or local restaurants. Or nearby playgrounds and schools. Some prefer the beach or the mountains or the plains. The bottom line is that everyone defines their quality of life differently.

How does historic preservation connect to quality of life? Simply put, historic preservation seeks to improve the local economy, maintain and rehabilitate the existing building stock, increase awareness of a community’s heritage, engage citizens, preserve the significant past for the future and identify what and why a community is important to itself and to others. By involving people with each other and the built environment around them, their sense of place will improve and people will develop pride in their place. When people are proud of where they live and can identify what is important to them, they are happier, and as a result quality of life improves. It’s a simple chain reaction that historic preservation helps to begin. Historic preservation does not force ideas onto communities or tell people what they should prefer; it hopes the community will speak up and citizens will say “This is important to us! This is who we are and what our community is!” From that point, historic preservation will find methods to improve and protect the quality of life.

So you see, anything can feed into quality of life. And quality of life feeds into historic preservation. My favorite chain reaction is this: people define where they live –> people improve their communities and protect their communities –> people have a sense of place –> people have pride in where they live –> people have a good quality of life –> everyone is happier … therefore … historic preservation is helping to make the world a better place and helping to save the world (as we flamingos might say).

Preservation ABCs: P is for Place

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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P is for Place

Not a historic site, but this place means the world to me.

Not a historic site, but this place means the world to me.

Place is not a standard vocabulary term that you’ll find in an architectural dictionary or preservation textbook; however, “place” is an often used term in historic preservation.

A place can be a town, a building, a field, a park, a bridge, a crossroads, a mountain range or anything really. When asked what is your favorite place, what’s your answer? Whether ocean, town, building, nature, any place can be special to someone, and it’s likely that every place has a dear meaning to someone. As the National Trust campaign says, “This Place Matters.” Identifying a particular place and appreciating that place allows the intangible ideas of historic preservation to make sense by connecting them with the tangible elements of our past and present. These places are important because they are the basis for everyone to understand significance. Not every place is a historic resource, but every place can be significant in someone’s life. And great places, loved places make for strong communities and a better quality of life.

We also talk about planning concepts such as “third place” – the idea that a third place is somewhere that people feel comfortable and welcome, beyond the home and beyond the office. This can be anywhere, though usually it refers to a restaurant, café or other gathering place (something that can be incorporated into new urbanism ideas).

What does “place” mean to you? What is your favorite place?

The U.S. Postal Service Buzz

The latest word from the United States Postal Service, is that as of August 2013, Saturday letter delivery will cease. Packages will still be delivered on Saturdays and post offices will remain open. In the meantime, post offices continue to close and processing facilities will close, too; thus, staff will be reduced. The reason? The US Postal Service has been operating on a $15.9 billion deficit since last year. They have to reduce that deficit somehow. And with the rise in online bill paying and electronic communication, the postal service simply isn’t what it used to be.

Preservationists, what do you think? So we won’t be getting letters on Saturday. It’s not really a big since the post offices will remain open, which is probably a day that many of us go to the post office. Most of us probably send significantly more electronic messages than snail mail letters, right?  Will we mourn the loss of six day mail delivery, or adjust with the modern times?  In the 1900s-1940s, the mail at Overhills, NC was delivered by train to the post office, which sat adjacent to the tracks. In later years, the post office relocated to another building and trucks delivered the mail. The post office has evolved, just like everything else, however its existence depends on the quantities of mail that we send, which continues to decline.

Jumping to the modern era, do you use email, Facebook, or text messages more than the other? Do you miss the days of emails instead of Facebook messages? (I prefer email over Facebook.) Do you miss the days of instant messenger or do you prefer text messages? Technology continues to change and we all change with it. What will be the fate of the US Postal Service in 100 years?  I would say it depends on what we do as a society.

The issue that remains is the effect that closing small and/or rural post offices will have on our communities. In some towns, there is little more than a post office and a town office in terms of public buildings. Having an individual zip code is important for the identity of towns. In some places, like Ripton, VT, the post office is in a country store. This topic of conversation about post offices came up on PiP back in August 2011. A PiP post from July 2012 talked about the types of buildings in which post offices are located.

 

The Ripton Country Store located in Ripton, VT.

The Ripton Country Store located in Ripton, VT. (Preservation Photos #53)

What’s your mail preference? What do you think about no more letter delivery on Saturday? What about the closing of small post offices?

Preservation ABCs: M is for Main Street

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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M is for Main Street

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Marion, VA

Main Street is a common idea, phrase, and referenced place in historic preservation because it incorporates so much of what historic preservation believes. Main Street (whether or not yours is named Main Street) historically included prominent building blocks, local businesses, a mix of retail and residential, a variety of services for the community, gathering places, human scale buildings, transportation nexuses, and a sense of place. Over the centuries and decades, main street as a hub for all of this faded; populations moved to the suburbs and strip malls and large indoor shopping malls and big box retailers took the place of main street.

And now, people are realizing once again the economic and community value of a main street. The National Trust Main Street Center focuses on revitalizing main streets to viable, sustainable communities. Main Streets can reinvent themselves. Some become more artsy or food oriented. Others retain basic services like pharmacies and stationery stores. Each community will have different needs and interests. The key is finding what works for each one, and having willing, passionate people involved.

Does your town have a main street? Or did you grow up in suburban developments (like me)? Has your main street changed over the years? How?

Local Business: Grunhaus

Preservationists love local businesses, and Preservation in Pink is happy to play a part in supporting them since local businesses improve our communities and quality of life. So if you’re cruising the streets of Montpelier, Vermont, swing by the Grunhaus (Nordic Street Eats). A lovely couple run this cart (looks like a castle, yes?) and the food is delicious. If you’re new there, they are happy to explain the choices and they’ll chat with you while they prepare your food. It takes only a few minutes. Bring cash, not plastic. The cart is normally parked near the intersection of State & Elm Streets. And yes, they are there all winter!

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Enjoy!

(Note: Preservation in Pink is voluntarily reviewing this business and is not compensated for this review. The point is to spread good news about good local businesses.) 

Small Business Saturday & Look Local

How do you feel about Black Friday shopping? After a few unsuccessful years of attempting to shop and becoming increasingly annoyed with the earlier hours of corporate America, I successfully avoided the insanity this year. Of course there are many ways to avoid the craziest shopping day of the year, even if you still want to shop. Obviously, online shopping is an option. But, consider this: local shopping.

Today is Small Business Saturday, a campaign begun in 2010 by American Express in order to encourage consumers to shop locally, educate people about the benefits of local shopping and to provide resources to small businesses. American Express provides incentives for its customers to follow through with local shopping at qualified local businesses, when using the American Express credit card, of course. Find businesses here. And read FAQ here.

Of course, American Express isn’t the only reason to “shop small” today. The benefits of shopping locally are endless: keeping money in your community, keeping your local economy healthy with jobs and commerce, encouraging new business, creating a vibrant and sustainable place to live, developing relationships with businesses and fellow shoppers, helping to create a sense of place in your town, better customer service, and more. And whether it’s one purchase that you can change or the majority of your purchases, every effort makes a difference.

Not all of us can stroll up and down a main commercial street where we live; need help with shopping locally? Download the iPhone app, Look Local, created by The 3/50 Project. You can search by location for eateries, stores and other services.

Look Local iphone app screenshot.

Look Local app menu

How do you feel about small stores? I’ll confess, sometimes it can feel strange walking into a small boutique or small store and not buying anything. Right? Sometimes you feel pressure to buy something, even if you really just want to look around, even if there is only perceived pressure. Whereas in a big store you can wander around with no one watching you. It takes practice to get over that feeling, if it’s been an issue for you. Think of it this way: if you were a store owner wouldn’t you rather someone come in to take a look rather than not come in at all? That person could be a potential customer, someone who is just browsing that particular day. Small business owners and employees always seem welcoming to people, in my experience, new customers or repeat customers. My advice: don’t worry. Just walk in, browse and take a mental note of what is in the store. If you can, remember the store next time you are shopping and become a customer if it’s a store you enjoy. 

If you care about your local economy, your quality of life, your sense of place and the economic health of your community, do some of your holiday (and everyday) shopping locally. It’ll make you feel good. Trust me. Good luck! And feel free to share any local shopping advice in the comments.

Love to Long Island

The memories of Tropical Storm Irene of August 2011 are all too familiar here in Vermont, so when the mid Atlantic was struck by Hurricane Sandy, Vermonters knew exactly how people felt. Roads washed out or blocked, infrastructure damaged, homes washed away, entire towns flooded, people stranded, people wondering what to do, communities coming together – yes, we do know how you feel. I remember being more worried about Long Island than Vermont before Tropical Storm Irene, and this time praying that both places would be spared. Fortunately Vermont was spared. Not so fortunately, Long Island and the entire tri-state area was pummeled. Having lived through a flood and worked personally and professionally through the aftermath of the storm’s destruction, I can say it is a long road to recovery. But everything will be okay.

Sadly, this time, my favorite place in the entire world flooded – Point Lookout, NY, about which I’ve written many times. As with many other homes, my family’s home flooded. Though an old house, it is not historic; it’s significance to us derives from family memory and emotional importance rather than characteristics of historic integrity qualifying it for the National Register. Though, to us – to our family history – it might as well be a national landmark. So when you say your house or that place is important to you, significant to you though not historically significant on the local, state or national level, I completely understand what you mean.

And our house will be fine in time, though it’s going to require complete renovation. The silver lining is that we were eventually going to get to that point.

If you or anyone you know was affected by Hurricane Sandy, I share your pain and I lend my support. Historic or not, we can all appreciate that every place matters to someone. Historic preservation isn’t only about historically significant buildings; it is about your community and having pride where you live and being a part of the greater story. Stay strong everyone and lend a hand to those in need.