Thursday, June 27, 2013

Two Hours from the Nearest Trader Joe’s

Just another day at The Sea Ranch. 

When people ask where we live, I tell them it’s about three hours north of San Francisco. In most Southern Californian’s mind, that mean we live on the Oregon border. In reality, it’s still another eight hour drive or so from us to the border … mental maps are kind of strange like that.

Sometimes my response will be, “we live out in the sticks, its two hours to the nearest Trader Joe’s.” That helps put it into perspective. I only bring up Trader Joe’s because when we lived in San Diego it was a quick ten minute drive to the closest Trader Joe’s and that is where the bulk of our food dollars went.

So, when you do live in a small town, what does that mean from a shopping perspective? Well, I can tell you that I shop a whole lot less than I used to. I was never a major shopper, even when we were in San Diego, but there were those trips to Target that started as a run for TP and soap and would end up being supplemented with some cute throw pillows, house plants, a trinket from the dollar bin, and some new note cards. I now do the bulk of my shopping in Gualala, with the occasional stop by Trader Joe’s in Petaluma if I coming back from a work trip or a visit over to family in Napa.

Go Local
The importance of shopping local comes to light, especially in a small town. Tourism never rebounded to pre-recession levels in our area, so the local stores are continually feeling the pinch. Over the past couple of month, a new “Go Local” campaign is gaining traction. The main focus is educating people on the importance of spending your money locally.  

The benefits of shopping local are well documented and that money circulated in the local economy several more times compared to shopping at a chain. I think the campaign is being very smart about how the approach the topic. Their message is to encourage people to spend 10 or 15 more of their money locally, instead of spending it out of town. This message settles much better than saying “Big Box Store X is evil; don’t spend your money there.”

Local Offerings
So, the question may be, can you get everything you need locally? For most things, yes. Local merchants provide all of the following: groceries, hardware store, nursery, pet store, toys, salon services, copy services, shoe store, pharmacy, clothing store, upscale house wares, kitchen store, book store, banking, and more. I have found that I can find just about anything I need if I look around. Mail order, or the occasional trip inland supplements the rest. 

What I actually appreciate about shopping at our local, smaller format grocery store, is that making decision in the aisles is easier. Instead of staring down dozens and dozens of options for a given product, I have a reasonable amount to choose from. Honestly, going into a big Raley’s or Vons kind of freaks me out a bit.

So, do I miss not having a Trader Joe's ten minutes away? Ok, yeah, a little bit. But what about being  up here and have the ability to pick free berries in the late summer until our hands are stained purple? That I would miss even more. 

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