Happy Black Friday! Today is the biggest shopping day of the year, and even with a down economy, malls are still expecting throngs of shoppers out for bargains. This year, though, I’m trying an experiment: I’m striving to buy all locally-made gifts from locally-owned shops. We try to shop this way most of the time anyway, but this holiday season, it’s even more critical, with local stores struggling to survive.
Why shop locally? Well, a recent study found that Oakland is currently losing an estimated $1 billion of sales of comparison goods (that’s clothing, gifts, furniture, household items, etc.) to other cities. Yep, you read right— that’s one BILLION dollars that could be coming to Oakland-based businesses—talk about a stimulus package! While local goods may cost a bit more (and even that isn’t always true), your dollars are helping to sustain retail and create jobs in our city. You’re also paying local sales tax, which in Alameda County helps to fund BART, ACTIA (a transportation agency that’s brought all sorts of great projects), and health care, among other things. And remember how great free shipping sounded? Turns out it’s not free at all—having a box sent to you from halfway across the country (or halfway around the world) contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn fuels climate change. Choosing local products from local stores is an investment in both the city and the planet.
It’s tougher than you’d think, though. Turn over half the things you’re eyeing and you’ll see that “Made in China” stamp. We’ve been trying to stick to American-made goods for several months now, and have really struggled. We need a dining room set, for instance, and after a year of unsuccessfully watching Craigslist for a good used set, we headed out to see what Oakland’s furniture shops had to offer. But every time we saw a set we liked, we’d find it had been made in China or Indonesia. At one local furniture shop, I explained our quandary, and the owner sighed. “If you’d told me five years ago that we’d ever be selling furniture made in China, I would’ve laughed. But it’s the only way we can stay alive now.” She directed me to their restored vintage pieces and to the one line of Amish furniture they carried, but nothing was quite right. (After much searching, we eventually settled on a set from Berkeley’s Wooden Duck, which makes furniture locally from reclaimed wood.)
Luckily, though, Oakland has an abundance of wonderful local shops that do carry many American-made (and even Oakland-made!) products, and now there’s a terrific team of folks helping to market those shops. This year, the Shop Oakland project (run by the City and the Oakland Merchants Leadership Forum) has teamed up with Oakland Unwrapped!, the brainchild of the fabulous Erin Kilmer-Neel, to launch the Oakland Grown campaign. Find out exactly where to buy what you need from a locally-owned Oakland business or artist. You get your gifts, and our small businesses get a much-needed holiday boost.
So this year, give it a try. Spend a day shopping on one of Oakland’s great commercial districts: have coffee and a pastry at Arizmendi and then take a stroll down Lakeshore and Grand by the lake. Shop Piedmont Avenue and end your trip with some ice cream from Fenton’s or gelato from Tango Gelato. Take your kids for pizza at Zachary’s and then spend the afternoon gift-hunting in Rockridge. Pop in to the local shops in Dimond, Fruitvale, Montclair, Temescal or Chinatown. Just can’t avoid a big-box shopping trip for some of the things on your list? Don’t forget that there are a number of stores in JLS and along the Emeryville border where you can get what you need and still keep your dollars in the city. (Oakland and Emeryville share revenues from East BayBridge Center, the big block of stores along 40th Street.) Or find the Oakland commercial district nearest you and see what’s there.
If you really can’t find it in Oakland, try Berkeley, Emeryville, or other nearby cities before you go online. (Berkeley is running their own buy local campaign this year, and a number of stores there are offering prizes and raffles as an incentive.) Oakland also has a sea of wonderful holiday events to visit while you’re out on your shopping expedition. As for my own holiday shopping experiment, I’ll follow up with a post-Christmas/Hanukkah post to let you know what I find and where. I already have some favorite spots, but I’m excited to try exploring some of the shopping districts I don’t spend too much time in to find out what surprises might be hiding there. Have fun!
Visit the Oakland and Berkeley “Shop Local” campaigns:
More on why you should buy locally:
Local holiday shopping events:
- Pro Arts Holiday Artisan Faire (Fri., Sat. & Sun., November 28-30, 12-6 pm)
- Montclair Village Holiday Stroll (Thur., December 4, 6-9 pm)
- Blankspace/Compound Gallery Holidayland Gift Sale (December 5-15, varying hours)
- Dimond Winter Celebration (Sat., December 6, 10 am-3 pm)
- Oakland Art Gallery Holiday Art Sale (Mon.-Fri., December 8-12, 11 am-6 pm)
- Rockridge Winter Walk (Wed., December 10, 6:30-8 pm)
- Annual Holiday Kwanzaa & Christmas Gift Show (Sat. & Sun., December 13-14, 11 am-8 pm)
- The Crucible Holiday Gifty Art Sale & Open House (Sat. & Sun., December 13-14, 10 am-4 pm
- Temescal Holiday Skate & Stroll (Sat. & Sun., December 20-21, 1-5 pm—yes, that’s ice skating!)
Other Oakland holiday events:
- Zoolights at the Oakland Zoo (December 5-January 4, 5:30-9 pm)
- Paws & Claus at the Oakland Zoo (Weekends from December 6-21, 9 am-3 pm)
- Oakland Holiday Parade (Sat., December 6, 2 pm)
- Jack London Square Lighted Yacht Parade (Sat., December 6, 5:30 pm)
- Oakland Museum’s Fungus Fair (Sat. & Sun., December 6-7, varying hours)
- Free holiday activities at the Oakland Public Library (various dates in December)
- Holidays at Dunsmuir Estate (Weekends from December 6-20, 11 am-5 pm)
- Scottish Rite Center’s Christmas Revels (December 12-21, 12-5 pm)
- Fairy Winterland at Fairyland (December 12-21, 12-7 pm)
- Oakland East Bay Symphony’s Holiday Concert (Sun., December 14, 4 pm)
- Oakland Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Paramount (December 18-24, various times)
- Cohen-Bray House Holiday Tea & Tour (December 28, various times)
- Chabot Space & Science Center New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop (Wed., December 31, 12:45 pm)