'I told you so,' shop, live local

We realize that our town is in its own little bubble, don’t we?

It’s like we have our own ecosystem; a way of life that differs greatly from surrounding communities. Oberlin is certainly not perfect. But, it does have advantages. For example, I like living in a town that is trying to be “local.” In general, there’s a real effort to shop and support our own community. I used to run in the mornings (before P! 90! X!, that is. More on that later.) On trash day, I saw way more Lorenzo's pizza boxes than others. Of course, it's no surprise. It's good pizza. (Full disclosure: my son works there. I’m disclosing this fact so that you’ll tip Jake when he hands you the next pizza box.)

Still, even here, it’s a challenge to be local, isn’t it? Billions of dollars have been invested to condition us to think we can trust the uniformity of the chain better than independents. The Golden Arches look the same everywhere. Marriott is my choice while traveling, because I can count on a consistent false sense of hospitality. We just never know about local mom and pop places. (Side note: I wonder what “Psycho” did in this regard. Have people ever thought the same about family-run motels after that movie? Eeesh.)

It's not that you can't get good service at chains. After all, you’re always reminded that places are "locally owned and operated." But there's just something special about being unique to a place…one of a kind. It takes courage to be on your own. Here in Oberlin, we recognize and support that.

It’s summer, and I’ve been playing old Michael Stanley Band songs these days. Back in the day, it was an annual summer pilgrimage to see MSB at Blossom. Michael was a local boy who never quite made it as big as he deserved. I wish I knew why. I got to see the band in New York City when I was in college. It was during their big push to make it nationally. I even got to hang out with them backstage. What a cool feeling to be in New York City with the local band from Ohio! Michael, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re proud of what you accomplished.

But being local isn’t just about buying Lorenzo's versus a national brand or listening to old MSB instead of some misspelled hippy-hop person. It’s about what we gain by doing it. At Slow Train, I get a personal greeting as well as awesome coffee. At The Feve, I get to see people I know as I eat my tots. At Lorenzo’s, my kid gets an awesome first job experience. At Dr. Petrill’s, I trust his commitment to the patient instead of the System, and I have an enjoyable time (well, not enjoyable. He is a dentist, after all.)

If you listen to people like David Orr, “local” is going to be increasingly important in the near future—vital, even. But you already know that. Much of the rest of the world is still behind on this. We’re all  transitioning into an unknown future, whether it’s acknowledged or not. And I personally love the thought that, when everyone else wakes up to being local, you and I will already be here, showing them by example. And when that day comes when we ALL are local, you and I can humbly look at the others and say, “I told you so.”

 

Originally published on July 5, 2012 in the Oberlin News Tribune.

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Oberlin resident Mike Vayda helps his clients communicate well through consulting, training and conferences. His book, "Shoot the Messenger," is available on Amazon, and locally (of course) at Mindfair Books in Oberlin.

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Mr. Ryan Magiera December 2, 2012

Danimal hot tots and Albino Squirrel "red" eye coffee. Thats the power of local. Local is insider. Insider jokes! And things that when you think about them looking back when you are gone, you truly value that they were there. They were an identify that you felt, grew with and can always go back to.

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