Siegel: Making a commitment to shopping and buying local

My son, Ajna, and I spent our Thanksgiving in Maine with my brother. We enjoyed a low-key holiday, had family jam sessions, ate early and often and began to fantasize with the kids about what Santa would bring them and what we would give our friends and family. Though we are a very Jewish family, we celebrate Christmas. My brother's son, Max, lamented that he thinks that we eat "too much sweets" and "get too much things" this time of year. He also let me know that he does like to get things, just that it is all too much. In fairness, his birthday is this time of year and it is just too much at once, but, his point is well taken.

Many years ago my sister-in-law and I used to participate in Black Friday shopping in Freeport, which is unique, and we did it for fun and bonding more than for shopping. We would video our experiences, we would fall asleep sitting in the parking lot and we would laugh and laugh and laugh. We didn't spend much time in many big box stores, but, we did definitely shop.

However, the ickiness of spending unnecessary money in a way that doesn't help Main Street and doesn't help artists eventually took it's toll on all of us. We have not been to Maine for Thanksgiving in many years and had not discussed if we would B-Fri (that is our word for it) when we came this year. This year we did not spend our time Black Friday Shopping. I did show Ajna what goes on in Freeport, we walked around for an hour, purchased a pair of pants, but this year we decided not to B-Fri because we were tired and because it is only for fun usually and it didn't sound fun. But, most of all, because for the last several years I have worked to transition my holiday shopping to local. Last year I successfully purchased almost all my gifts local and artisan. I am low income and doing this takes planning. I have to take advantage of sales and events that open themselves to accessibility by having seconds shelves and such.

What I found last year is that I spent less money on the holidays, that the gifts I purchased were more well received, better quality and more magical because I had a story, because they were from local stores and local artists, because I had conversations with the artists and the shop owners when I purchased them.

I personally am focused on women-owned, people-of-color owned, minority-owned local and artist-owned. I also am focused on Main Street in southern Vermont and using my limited funds this holiday season to help grow our local economy and to help lift up the families, women and artists that I know.

The biggest lesson I have learned in the last several years is that it is not at all hard to transition from corporate spending to local spending. I had sold myself a narrative that because I was low income, I had to buy big business, that it is what I could afford. It turns out that I don't, that I spend less if I do it this way. Yes, I too have a child that wants gizmos and gadgets that I can only get at a big box store and yes, I get a few of those things each year and will continue. However, as I transition myself away, I also transition my son away. He begins to appreciate the Storymatic Cards I purchased at the Cotton Mill Open Studio, the Tavernier Chocolates, the glass-blown goblets and paperweight made by Robert Burch, Gift certificates to local restaurants that I purchase during Holly Days, books from Everyone's books and joy of local magical events.

My friends and students appreciate the paintings, the local cards and the stories when I stop in Penelope Wurr, Windham Movement Apparel, Beadnicks, Mali Sun and more and I get to know and talk to the people selling the products. I get to know that I am helping our local economy thrive instead of taking my money out of the community.

I implore all of us to make a commitment to buy local, buy artists, buy women owned, people of color owned and minority owned. We can all make a difference to our economy. I will attend the Putney Craft Tour this weekend, I will attend the Cotton Mill Open Studio, I will spend time at 118 Elliot looking at the local crafts and I will go to Holly Days and Holly Nights. I will attend the Winter Farmers Market and I will make an effort to know what our local shops have to offer. I will get to know the people in our community that are making our economy thrive and contributing to a vibrant arts and socially conscious market and I will choose to support them this year. Will you?

Brenda Siegel is the founder of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival and will soon be opening an office in Windham Movement Apparel. Siegel can be contacted at


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