Posts Tagged ‘oakland grown’


The 3/50 Project: Saving independent businesses

April 13, 2009

I first heard about the 3/50 Project over at De-Victorianization on Division, a house blog out of the Midwest, but I was struck by how wonderfully this national project echoed the work that’s been going on in Oakland over the past few years with campaigns like Shop Oakland, Oakland Unwrapped!, and now Oakland Grown. And I was also struck by the fact that there is not yet a single Oakland business participating in this project—not one!—in spite of the fact that Alameda, Berkeley, San Francisco, and even Walnut Creek and Danville are represented. So it seemed like it was time to spread the word!

The premise of the Minneapolis-based 3/50 Project (brainchild of Cinda Baxter at Always Upward) is that if we each picked three favorite independent businesses and spent a total of $50 across the three, we’d collectively generate $42.6 billion in revenue across the nation. (The numbers are based on the Department of Labor’s most recent employment statistics, and count only those who are currently employed.) The organizers also note the huge impact of buying from locally-owned businesses: for every $100 spent at an independent business, $68 comes back to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you buy from a chain, only $43 comes back—and if you buy online, virtually nothing comes back.

This isn’t news in Oakland, where the effort to encourage residents to buy locally has been underway for some time, and where a 2007 report estimated that the city is losing nearly a billion dollars in sales a year—yes, that’s one BILLION dollars!—to businesses based in nearby cities or online. But it’s one of the first nationally-organized efforts I’ve seen to help spread the word in a clear, easy-to-implement fashion. Buying local and independent isn’t just about the price tag; it’s about investing in your community and keeping local dollars local. Often, it’s also about minimizing your footprint and supporting smaller retailers who carry local products that haven’t been shipped across the ocean to get to you. (It’s worth noting that this is a sticky challenge for a city like Oakland, home to one of the busiest container ports in the world, with thousands of goods arriving daily from China and beyond. But I feel strongly that we can work together with ports across the United States to balance these challenges and mitigate the impact of decreased dependence on foreign goods on local economies and jobs so that we can move forward sustainably.)

Perhaps most importantly, buying local is about strengthening your neighborhood and your city by fostering businesses that employ local residents and generate local tax dollars. In California, this is especially important right now—while I’m not the biggest fan of our new crazy-high sales tax, it’s raising critical revenue for the state, cities, and the many programs we all rely on. (In Alameda County, money from sales tax helps fund BART, essential health care services, and a wide range of roadway, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects through ACTIA; local jurisdictions also get one percent of the state’s cut for services, schools, and more.) An online purchase with free shipping and no sales tax may look cheaper—but is it, truly, when you factor in the devastating effect on your neighborhood businesses and your city?

The 3/50 campaign includes badges and posters you can print and hang in your community or display online to build awareness, and local independent businesses can sign up to be listed on the website.

How about it—can you commit to spending $50 across your three favorite local businesses this month?


What I bought for the holidays (in Oakland)

December 28, 2008

As promised, here’s the full report on how my local shopping project went this holiday season: everything I bought for the holidays this year. I tried very hard to buy only from locally-owned Oakland businesses, but strayed on a few things. For those, though, I did successfully buy from either locally-owned Berkeley businesses (I work in Berkeley, and as it came down to the wire, just couldn’t avoid the lunchtime errands!) or Oakland chains.

  • Three strands of Christmas lights and assorted tree trimmings from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (Temescal). Christmas lights are, apparently, all made in China. Every single one. I searched high and low because we really wanted American-made solar-powered or at least LED lights, but not a one was made anywhere other than China or Taiwan. Instead, I settled for several new-to-me strands. I also bought a wreath and various ribbons and garlands while I was there, so it all came to a whopping $11.
  • One live Charlie Brown Christmas tree and one wreath from the Grand Lake Ace Garden Center. (I know, their business is officially based in Piedmont, but the nursery’s on the Oakland side of the line, so I’m counting it!) We’ll plant the tree in our backyard in January.
  • One garland from the Lakeshore Trader Joe’s, an impulse purchase. Interestingly, grown at the same South Bay nursery as the Ace wreath and tree.
  • Butcher block paper and ribbon for wrapping from Paper Source (Berkeley’s Fourth Street). This was my only purchase that was neither in Oakland nor from a local business, but I openly admit to being a Paper Source addict. For some bizarre reason, I’ve lived or worked within a couple blocks of a Paper Source store for my entire adult life (first in North Cambridge, and then in Brookline, Minneapolis, and now Berkeley) so we go way back, and every year my holiday wrappings come from there. (I did miss one year, the winter after I moved to California, because there were no stores here yet….but luckily, the Berkeley store opened that next spring!)
  • Two Cheerful Pet dog toys made by a Nepalese women’s cooperative (so not exactly local, but also not made in China!) from Paws on Piedmont for the dogs out east.
  • One cute outfit and hat made by Mariposa Baby from Babyalula (Piedmont Avenue) for my cousin’s brand-new baby.
  • Assorted books from Walden Pond Books (Grand Lake), Rockridge Home, and Builders Booksource (Berkeley’s Fourth Street). Rockridge Home also did a very snazzy wrapping job.
  • One Nikki McClure print from Issues (Piedmont Avenue), which is a wonderful news/magazines shop that even let the Labradane come in while we looked around.
  • One comic book from Dr. Comic & Mr. Games (Piedmont Avenue)—which I’d never been into, and which is a pretty amazingly awesome place. I asked for advice on what to get my cousin, and was literally treated to a tour of the world of comics. As I leafed through the books, no fewer than four employees came to give me their two cents.
  • Locally made soaps from Hydra (Berkeley’s Fourth Street).
  • California olive oil from Stonehouse Olive Oil (Berkeley’s Fourth Street).
  • One Yama stovetop coffee brewer (guess who that was for!) from Sweet Maria’s (West Oakland).
  • Local chocolates from Piedmont Grocery (Piedmont Avenue). Sad story….I’d intended to stop en route to the post office to get chocolates from Lulu Rae, which now has a little spot on Piedmont that it shares with Tango Gelato. But both were closed the weekend before Christmas due to “electrical troubles”….lousy time for a chocolate shop to miss out on holiday shoppers! Piedmont Grocery isn’t exactly the primo place to get chocolates, but they do carry a couple of locally-made varieties, and it was the only place I could think of that would get me back to the post office before they closed. Also, I was walking down Piedmont with a giant box full of gifts to be mailed in my hands and was sans bike/car, so there really weren’t any other options.

And that’s it. This year my family just exchanged small gifts accompanied by donations to favorite charities, which did make shopping a lot more manageable and meaningful (if not as happy for the local shops!) We also spent the holidays in our house for the first time, which was lovely but also pretty mellow and quiet, since our Christmas-celebrating family is all out east. (The West Coasters are of the latke persuasion.) Luckily, my dad sent the best gift: his traditional homemade almond and chocolate croissants so we could have our own Christmas morning feast. Yum! (Thanks Dad!)

Hope everyone’s holidays were as peaceful and happy as ours were.


Buy Oakland Grown this holiday season!

November 28, 2008

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.

Oakland Grown

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:

Other Oakland holiday events: