Nevermind the Big-Box Stores, Try Shopping Local
Before you start checking off that Christmas list you should know the benefits of shopping in Ferndale.
The snowflake light is hanging above West Nine Mile Road and the red ribbon is wrapped up the light poles. Storefronts are oozing red and green and, in some places, Christmas tunes are already going. The winter holidays are here – never mind that Thanksgiving is still three days away.
Before you get too excited for all things merry, remember that with the holiday season comes, for better or for worse, shopping. Today, commonly referred to in the retail world as Black Friday, will be the largest shopping day of the year. All the places, from Kohl's to Target to Walmart, will have huge deals with huge amounts of people lining up at an really early hour to get the latest thingamajig.
That doesn't sound appealing? Well, how about this: instead of Nordstrom's, try Nine Mile Road. Fewer people, local fare and you can save on gas.
The customer service given by local shops, such as the ones in Ferndale, is something you can't find at the national chain stores, said Chris Hughes, communications and marketing manager for the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority.
"What is especially important here is that behind the counter of these shops are owners, people who are personally invested in their business," she said. "They bend over backwards to know their customers, carry what they want, introduce them to new product, earn their business and keep their customers happy. These owners live in the area and they shop here as well."
Rainy Day Hobbies is one of those stores. Located on Woodward, Rainy Day specializes in collector toy trains and cars. The business just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Owner Rainy Hamilton Jr. said being local and available for the customer makes all the difference.
"We offer hands on service and we're very knowledgeable about the product," he said. "I think that's important … customers still want to see the product and know that there's somebody locally that they can call with questions and order parts through."
It's great to support local businesses and to find unique items locally made by local artists, but there's an environmental aspect to shopping local that some people might not think about. If you shop local, you don't drive nearly as far, cutting down on emissions, Hughes said. She also brought up the point that a lot of the shops downtown have their items produced locally, which also reduces emissions from shipping goods across the country.
For example, candles.
The Candle Wick Shop has been making the majority of their candles right here in the city for 18 years. An employee at The Candle Wick Shop, Laura Herzog, wants customers to know that its products are made with them in mind. "There is a difference between our stuff and what you would find at (the big chain stores) … With our stuff we don't put any chemicals in it," Herzog said. "So that's kind of the difference between shopping in a bigger chain store than shopping more locally. We focus more on the product."
Hybrid Moments, an independent record, clothing and art shop, opened just four months ago on Woodward. Owner James "Johnny" Weeks hopes to use this time of year to bring in more foot traffic. Especially people who want to give more this Christmas than the typical CD or DVD found at chains. "The kind of vinyl and CDs we offer here you can't really find at Best Buy or any of that," Weeks said. "I'm hoping people have good interest in music and would come here to buy music. Not to mention we sell vinyl, most chain stores don't."
Resources for shopping local include the Michigan Main Street Program, which is aimed strictly at bringing more businesses to the local downtown areas; the Shop MI Downtown Holiday Challenge, which asks residents to spend 75 percent of their holiday shopping in downtowns; and the 3/50 Project, whose goal is to support, promote and protect local businesses. Additionally, the 3/50 Project blog states that for every $100 spent locally, $68 returns to the community.
Ferndale doesn't have everything you'll need for your holiday gift buying frenzy, but it'll have a handful. So, instead of driving to the nearest strip mall, think about putting on your sneakers and walking downtown. You might not be able to buy the newest thingamajig, but you might be able to pick up a watchyamacallit.
This article originally ran in Ferndale Patch on Nov. 22. The article was rewritten to reflect the change in time.