Shopping Season: AmazonSmile

Did you avoid Black Friday or embrace it? How about Small Business Saturday? My Instagram and Twitter feeds were overflowing with fun images of local shopping. What will you do for Cyber Monday? In our world, many people shop online because of the wider variety available (basically everything) or the convenience or the prices (sometimes true, sometimes not). Online shopping can mean local businesses or small businesses online, websites like Etsy, or, of course, Amazon.

My confession: I shop online, sometimes at Amazon. It’s easy to find anything. Sigh. It’s conflicting. But, I’d still choose Amazon over Walmart. Does anyone else feel that way? Well, here’s something to make you feel a bit better.

If you’re shopping on Amazon on Cyber Monday (or any day, actually) consider going to www.smile.amazon.com. Why? Because if you choose a charitable organization, then 0.5% of your purchase will go to that organization. In Vermont, you can choose the Preservation Trust of Vermont. When you choose your charity, type in “preservation” and many organizations come up for your choosing. The trick is to always remember to sign into AmazonSmile. Read the FAQs here. It’s easy, and no additional cost to you, and will help your favorite organization. Happy shopping!

Coffee in Enosburg Falls, VT

It’s Monday. Who needs a cup of coffee? That’s rhetorical. Aside from needing coffee, I love a good strong cup of coffee in the morning, or most anytime of day. And I love local businesses that serve good, local coffee brewed just right. Those are the businesses who care about their customers. One of my favorite places to get a cup of coffee in my northern Vermont travels is The Flying Disc in Enosburg Falls, VT.

The Flying Disc on Main Street in Enosburg Falls, VT.

The Flying Disc (left) on Main Street in Enosburg Falls, VT.

The Flying Disc is located in a beautiful historic building in Enosburg Falls, complete with its original storefront and full of historic integrity. It’s a unique coffee shop, complete with records, dvds, video games and other items for sale. Walk right in and you’ll be greeted by one of the owners, Kelee Maddox, who has a lovely soft, southern accent; she’s incredibly friendly and happy to talk with you for a while. Take a seat at the window, the coffee bar, a table or on the couch while you drink your coffee and read or use wifi for a bit.

Good stuff at The Flying Disc.

Good stuff at The Flying Disc.

The Flying Disc brews Vermont Coffee Company coffee (my absolute favorite) Want something more than regular coffee? No problem, there are plenty of options. And while you’re there, try a “super healthy cookie” (with or without chocolate chips). And no, that’s not in quotes to be sarcastic. Kelee made these cookies to get her kids to eat tons of vegetables, but you’d never know it. Seriously delicious and filling, you’ll be glad you tried one.

A beautiful location.

A beautiful location.

What I admire most about the Flying Disc is how reasonable the prices remain. A large cup of coffee is $1.25. And this is excellent coffee, not your standard gas station blend (if you know Vermont Coffee Company, you know what I mean!). It’s refreshing to find a low key coffee shop with affordable prices that really plays a role in the community. It keeps people coming back. (If my route calls for it, I’ll stop in twice in one day, happy to support this local business.)  Enosburg Falls has had better days and years, but it’s making a comeback in northern Vermont. And people like the Maddoxes believe in the town and see the progress.

A historic photo. The building looks much the same, except the staircase is enclosed and now has awnings.

A historic photo. The building looks much the same, except the staircase is enclosed and now has awnings. This photo hangs inside the coffee shop.

So stop in, grab some coffee, browse the music and videos and chat for a while. You can learn about the building’s history or hear about what’s going on in town.

A two story outhouse was removed in the 1940s. Thanks to The Flying Disc for allowing me to snap a photo of this photograph to share. Yikes, what a task it must have been to remove that!

A two story outhouse was removed in the 1940s. Thanks to The Flying Disc for allowing me to snap a photo of this photograph to share. Yikes, what a task it must have been to remove that!

What’s your favorite local business that you admire, and why?

Restored advertisements remain on the building.

Restored advertisements remain on the building.

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For the record, I’m writing about The Flying Disc simply to share a great business in Vermont, and to help travelers find a good cup of coffee. Opinions are my own and I’m not compensated in any way for this post.  And if you have a place you’d like to share, send it my way. Thanks! 

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?

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.

More on the Preservation Budget

There are debates all around about the Save America’s Treasures program and whether it’s a good or a bad thing for it to be cut from the budget. From what I can gather, the majority feel it’s a bad move on the part of Congress. Even if you’re not a fan of the Save America’s Treasures program, the fact of the matter is that Congress feels it appropriate and permissible to slash the historic preservation budget (that includes park funding!) It’s not as if an alternate program has been proposed in place of one that supposedly does not work. It is simply an attack on historic preservation, a field that only wants to improve the quality of life in this country and has proven again and again that historic preservation works.

Because this is such an important issue, I’m sharing links from Donovan Rypkema’s blog, both of which he encouraged others to link. So here you go, the links and select quotes, but go ahead and read the entire posts:

Preservationists Outraged as Obama Cancels Building Restoration Programs by Lloyd Alter

We have noted before that the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, and that renovation and restoration are labor-intensive, giving twice as much stimulus bang for the buck than new construction. They are green jobs, creating more efficient buildings and saving energy at a lot less cost than covering the roofs with solar panels.

But that didn’t stop President Obama from cancelling two programs, Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, that cost $220 million over ten years. The White House says “Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear.”

Except that isn’t true, there are performance metrics, that prove that the programs created jobs at 1/18th the cost of last year’s stimulus programs.

What’s Obama got Against Historic Preservation? by Knute Berger

The Save America’s Treasures program, created by Bill Clinton in 1998, is the only federal bricks-and-mortar grant program for preservation and is designed to leverage matching private sector and non-profit funding for projects. It is run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in conjunction with the National Park Service. It has been slated for elimination…

On top of those cuts, Obama has proposed slashing National Heritage Area funding in half, bad news for Washington state which is in the process of creating a National Maritime Heritage Area to boost cultural tourism in coastal areas, from the Pacific to Puget Sound.

So what are we supposed to do? Keep talking, keep sharing, keep caring about the fate of historic preservation. This is a field that faces uphill battles day after day, something we acknowledge when we “sign up” for a life of historic preservation work, and at some point, we all have to convince others of the worth of preservation. It looks like it’s that time again. Let’s keep historic preservation in the game.

Historic Preservation Budget at Risk

While historic preservation involves beliefs, theories, ethics, local organizations, grass-roots movements, and more, the success of historic preservation as a national program is very much dependent on politics and the federal budget. Federal programs like Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America are able to operate because of federal funding. Both are proven successful programs: saving important pieces of American heritage, improving the economy, and being overall win-win programs.

Many people have already heard, but for those not in the loop of preservation news: about two weeks ago the White House announced that the 2011 budget would eliminate ALL of the funding for both Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, citing that the programs lasted longer than planned and apparently the lawmakers in Washington are not happy with their performance.

Eliminating Save America’s Treasures alone means already a 25% decrease in the preservation funding. Twenty-five percent!! There are a lot of knowledgeable people blogging about these budget cuts and what it will do to historic preservation, so rather than reiterate everything they are saying, here are a few snippets and the original sources.

[If you know the story already and want to help, click here and tell your Congressmen what you think — it takes one minute, if that!]

From Donovan Rypkema’s blog, Place Economics:

Naively I sincerely believed that as we have broadened the definition of the roles that historic preservation plays in society, as we have documented the wide range of positive economic impacts of historic preservation, as we have demonstrated the contribution of historic preservation to Smart Growth, sustainable development, affordable housing, downtown revitalization – that after all of this I thought our message had finally gotten through…

This announcement had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the federal deficit. The rounding errors in the budgeting process are ten times greater than the annual amount spent on these two programs combined. Here’s the analogy. You have a household income of $80,000 per year, but decide “We need to cut back.” So what do you do? Eliminate $0.04 from your monthly expenditures. That’s right…four cents a month of an $80,000 a year income is the equivalent of these cuts…

Most of the developed countries in the world had a major heritage conservation component in their stimulus packages. Why? jobs, job training, local impact, labor intensity, affects industry most adversely affected, impacts local economies, long term investment, etc. etc. Historic preservation element in the US stimulus plan? $0.

Also from Donovan Rypkema, an explanation of the Save America’s Treasures effectiveness:

Between 1999 and 2009, the Save America’s Treasures program allocated around $220 million dollars for the restoration of nearly 900 historic structures, many of them National Historic Landmarks. This investment by the SAT program generated in excess of $330 million from other sources. This work meant 16,012 jobs (a job being one full time equivalent job for one year…the same way they are counting jobs for the Stimulus Program). The cost per job created? $13,780.

This compares with the White House announcement that the Stimulus Package is creating one job for every $248,000. Whose program is helping the economy?

Dwight Young, for the National Trust of Historic Preservation, further discussing Save America’s Treasures:

Since its establishment in 1998, Save America’s Treasures has been a hugely successful tool for preserving the buildings, structures, documents, and works of art that tell America’s story – and for creating jobs and boosting local economies, too. The program has spotlighted some world-famous icons like the Star-Spangled Banner, Mesa Verde, and Ellis Island. It has also opened people’s eyes to the importance (and fragility) of the lesser-known treasures in their own hometowns. That alone, if you ask me, makes it a great program…

Major chunks of our history are represented in these irreplaceable places and things, and Save America’s Treasures has helped ensure that we can continue to experience and learn from them. Given all that it has accomplished, it’s easy to see why this terrific program has earned the right to have “treasures” in its name – and why we have to make sure it doesn’t disappear.

From Pat Lally, for the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

But here’s the biggest irony in the President’s Budget Request (and a little-known fact). Technically speaking, Save America’s Treasures and the other core national preservation programs under the HPF cost the American taxpayer nothing. You see, this account, by law, is funded by the revenue received from offshore oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. Years ago, Congress had the foresight to place historic preservation in this dedicated account along with other “conservation” activities. Their rationale was that as non-renewable resources are expended (such as fossil fuels), some of the associated revenue should help pay for the conservation and preservation of other non-renewable resources, such as sensitive ecosystems and nationally-significant buildings, collections, and objects.

Makes sense, right? Well, the problem is that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have budgeted much of this money for purposes other than historic preservation, and that simply has to stop. In fact, some of the other conservation activities that are funded by oil and gas leasing revenue are increased substantially in this Budget Request, just as we were slashed. It seems to me that preservationists need to make it loud and clear to their lawmakers as to why we need every penny of the $150 million that we’re supposed to get from Washington every year.

The final irony is that, among federal programs, Save America’s Treasures stands out as a model of efficiency and effective spending. You see, every grant recipient under this program is required to find a dollar-for-dollar, non-federal match. To date, Save America’s Treasures at the National Trust has raised almost $57 million in non-federal and private matching funds. As a result, Save America’s Treasures has been enormously successful in leveraging private-sector financing and creating productive and sustained partnerships with large corporations, foundations, and individuals that provide matching contributions. Here is just a small glimpse into some of the places and things that Save America’s Treasures has helped preserve for future generations: Ellis Island, Mesa Verde National Park, Valley Forge, Thomas Edison’s Invention Factory, and the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star Spangled Banner.

And those are just some of the blog posts, but more can be found on the National Trust website and Save America’s Treasures website.

What does this mean? It’s not good. But it is the proposed budget so there is still time to act. The easiest, fastest step that preservation friends can take is to tell Congressmen. That link is a form that takes maybe one minute to fill out – with a name and address it will automatically send it to the appropriate Congressmen.

Historic preservation is not a frivolous endeavor; it is proven to boost the economy, which be a major point for people who are only worried about the economy right now. As Pat Lally said, it does not make sense to cut the budget for Save America’s Treasures or more broadly, historic preservation.

Do something! It’s incredibly to click that link and fill out your name. Send it to everyone you know. If we don’t save historic preservation programs, we’ll be taking a giant step backwards and many people will be without jobs — how does that help the economy?

Here’s the url in case the link didn’t work: https://secure2.convio.net/nthp/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=536

The 3/50 Project

The flyer above says it all: every individual (yes, even you and me) has the ability to help the local economy, a little bit at a time.  And sure, there is always a lot of talk about shopping local and the benefits of doing so, with vague explanations included, but until The 3/50 Project, I had never seen it described so simplistically, so easy to for one person to take action as an individual.

Most of us do a lot of shopping, whether it’s for groceries, clothes, gifts, books, or something else. Most of us probably spend more than $50 per month at businesses. Well, why not take your shopping elsewhere? What if you can’t spend $50? Then spend what you can. Combine  your money with friends and collectively spend $50 at a local business, because that $50 at a local business does more good than $50 elsewhere.

And just what is local independent business?  Good question.  See the 3/50 Project FAQ page for a short answer, or see the Independent page for a longer answer. Basically (according to the information provided): the business is private, it is in business in a community that it serves, it is not a national name brand, it does not have a corporate office, the owners make the decisions and are responsible for the business, there are no more than six business outlet in its registered state of business, and it is not a franchise.

Cinda Baxter began this endeavor with a blog post, a flyer, and a website, and the project has flourished. She, like the business owners she believes in, sleeps little and works hard. Check out her website and support The 3/50 Project by sharing flyers, blog widgets (check out the one on the sidebar), buying coffee mugs, etc.  But, most importantly, make a commitment to your local, independent businesses. Look what one person has already started (thanks, Cinda!). Imagine what you can do.

A note: I learned about The 3/50 Project from a friend in Fayetteville, NC who frequents downtown Fayetteville and the coffee shop, Rude Awakening.  Their website links to The 3/50 Project. Do you know a local business that hasn’t joined? Print out a flyer and drop by your favorite store, restaurant, etc.  Good luck!

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Preservation in Pink continues to support efforts that support the local economy. Previous related posts include:  The Good Part About this Bad Economy, No Farms, No Food, Here’s What You Just Did, Christmas Shopping Considerations  series #1, #2, #3, #4.