Nothing Beats the Local ExperienceSeptember, 2019
By Stacy Milbouer and Tom Long
Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
We won’t lie. We’ve done our share of internet shopping. But as much as we can we shop ultra-local at independent stores or local chains. And not just because it’s the right thing to do, it’s because of what online retail cannot offer a consumer.
In-person shopping has a sense of adventure. It’s an experience, not a transaction. When we shop local, we often get more than we bargained for – in a good way.
First, the obvious. We can touch, feel, smell, taste and try on products. Don’t underestimate the power of sensory and tactile influences on what we consume.
And of course, there’s the human factor. A knowledgeable shopkeeper or salesperson can help us find what we’re looking for, suggest a more suitable product, critique a piece of clothing or give fashion advice (does this T-shirt make me look fat?). We might even find the perfect item that we didn’t even know we wanted.
We call it organic retail, or the Water Monkey effect. And here’s why…
We would never think of visiting Portsmouth without stopping at the Water Monkey, even if we aren’t interested in buying anything. The store is a funky conglomeration of Bob Marley T-shirts, hemp clothing, carefully curated hipster shirts and hats, art piece jewelry and hippie tapestries.
When we enter the store, which is owned and operated by the Jule family, it’s like visiting a friend. Even though we’re not on a first-name basis, it’s always entertaining. There’s no hard sell. But there is laughing, schmoozing, great recommendations and advice.
Many a time we’ve been told that a particular shirt we’ve just tried on is “just not working.” Honesty is definitely the best policy, and we keep coming back — as much as for something fun to do as to see the latest cool stuff they’ve gotten in. They’re selling humor and good cheer as well as cool “stuff.”
And it’s not just this business. It’s almost anywhere a clerk or shopkeeper meets you with a smile and an offer of assistance.
We recently dropped by Wingate’s Pharmacy in Nashua looking for a toothbrush and left with a tin of Joy Lane Farm all-natural shaving soap handcrafted in Rollinsford from goat milk and olive oil. It was a close shave and the beginning of a lovely relationship.
Just walk into Bookery in Manchester and not only can you browse books, sniff their heady, newly printed scent, but advice comes in the form of staff picks and awesome suggestions by well-read staff and other bibliophile customers who are happy to point to the volume you’re leafing through and proclaim, “That is a great read. You should read her third novel. It was even better.”
And that leads to another benefit of local shopping. The shared experience of other customers. Local businesses become third places where people meet and gather — strangers and friends with common tastes and conversation to offer.
At the big box stores you’re lucky to find a salesperson, much less somebody who knows anything about their products. Local retailers know their products like they know their bottom line, which brings us to another reason to buy local: The money stays in town.
The same can be said for shopping at a farm stand, farmers’ markets and right from the farmer herself. “Eat your view,” as they say. It’s a cliché but it’s true. If you don’t want to see another subdivision growing on a local corn field, support your local farmer.
And, speaking of local, we’ve renamed our previous “Attainable Sustainable” column “Good Company,” to better spotlight the work done by our business neighbors. And we’ve added another feature we called “Legacy,” this month highlighting the Mack family in Londonderry, to highlight shops, farms and products that have become intergenerational local landmarks.
And one last word: website. Have you checked out our website lately? It’s been reinvigorated. All of our magazines gone at your local outlet? No problem. You can read it all online here online.