I was surprised to learn that the idea to support local, independently owned and operated businesses over the holiday season was created by one of the biggest, nameless, faceless businesses of all time.
In November 2010, American Express promoted Small Business Saturday – a companion to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in which people were encouraged to patronize local brick-and-mortar stores instead of the mega-franchises.
This is clearly a Sign of the Apocalypse. But I think it’s a great idea. (Small Business Saturday, not the Apocalypse. No, wait. On second thought, they’re both pretty good ideas.) Actually, the idea behind Small Business Saturday isn’t altruistic. Small businesses take credit cards too, and American Express gets their cut whether you buy from a megastore or from an author who uses paypal or square to take credit cards at book signings/readings.
The Smallest Business is One Person
I’d actually suggest taking this concept a tiny step further. If you’re choosing to indulge in the post-thanksgiving consumerist binge, consider supporting products and services directly from local providers. I mean buying art directly from the artist. Not from a business. Not even from a small local business, but from PEOPLE.
Buy directly from the people who actually make the product or perform the service.
It isn’t hard to find artists and crafters who live and work in your city: musicians, authors, salons, woodworkers, etc. Although they may not have a storefront. You may have to catch them at public appearances, or possibly through their websites. Finding them can be more fun than scouring the soul-crushing Mall of America.
I think this kind of gift is more thoughtful and meaningful to not just the gifter and the giftee, but also to your local artists. And it beats the hell out of a gift card to the mega-store.
I’ll take this opportunity to point out some independent artists from the Minneapolis area who are worth raving about. Want to make your gift extra-extra-special for no extra charge? Ask the artist to sign a personalized “Merry Christmas to…” for the recipient.
Track down these great bands at a local show and buy the CD direct from the musician or through their websites.
- All The Pretty Horses have a CD release party on 2 Dec, along with Hastings 3000
- Check out the Phantom Tails/Fort Wilson Riot split vinyl release party on 3 Dec, and get two band releases for the price of one!
- Mark Mallman always has something going on.
- Mayda, Dosh, STNNNG, Tapes-n-Tapes, POS, Gay Witch Abortion, No Bird Sing, Haley Bonar, Peter Wolf Crier, and about a billion more to choose from. If all else fails, download Jagged Spiral’s album Days From Evil for free, burn it to a CD and say you paid for it.
- City Pages has an entire directory of Minneapolis bands.
- Check out vita.mn for local shows.
These authors have the occasional local reading/appearance, or contact them through their websites:
- Michael Merriam – Speculative Fiction, Paranormal Romance
- Abra Staffin Wiebe – Speculative Fiction, Steampunk and Fantasy
- Dana Baird – Young Adult Fiction
- Terry Faust – Speculative Fiction and Sci-Fi
- Christopher Valen – Crime
- Conrad Zero – Dark Fiction. Duh.
- Check out Magers and Quinn, Once Upon A Crime, Dreamhaven Books, and Uncle Hugo’s for more local author events, readings and recommendations.
- City Pages lists reading events here.
Musicians and authors are the company I keep, so it’s harder for me to list other local artists by name. But finding them for yourself can be half the fun.
- Anna Lee has some great fashion designs.
- Julia Leigh gives fun dance lessons, which would make a unique gift!
- Again, local news sources and search engines are your friend
One thing that Buy Nothing Day and Small Business Saturday have in common is taking your money back from the fat-cats. You should consider where your money goes all the time, not just for one weekend of the year. Where does your money go if you buy at Walmart? Who knows? But if you buy from a local human being, you know. And there’s the added incentive that you are helping to improve the art in your community by supporting local artists.
If you know of more local artists people can support directly, list them in the comments.
And remember: consumerism is not the spirit of the holiday.