Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Buy Local in Ann Arbor: Midnight Madness

8. December 2007 • Juliew
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Go downtown. Enjoy the entertainment. Eat a nice dinner. People watch. Donate to Galens. Walk a lot. Buy stuff on sale. Ashley Street, Main Street, Liberty (don’t forget places like the Bead Gallery on Liberty), State Street, South University (Middle Earth has the best store windows in town), and the Kerrytown Area (remember the stores on 4th near the co-op and Heavenly Metal around the corner on ann St.) are all participating.

Today, Friday, December 7 all day until late (different stores have different closing hours, but all will be staying open until at least 9:00pm, some until midnight).

  1. If Midnight Madness shoppers notice a group of cyclists on the streets, that’s because WBWC’s monthly Ride Around Town will also be wending its way around downtown tonight, leaving from Liberty Plaza around 6:30pm. A civil circuit by cyclists at a reasonable pace lasting a bit over a half hour.

       —HD    Dec. 8 '07 - 01:45AM    #
  2. Maybe it’s the contrarian in me, but I find this whole “buy local” meme a bit troubling. Am I the only one?

    It’s encouraging people to look inward with their resources, to favor what’s close at hand and familiar, and that doesn’t seem like the right message.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Dec. 13 '07 - 07:24PM    #
  3. That’s an odd interpretation, Fred. Assuming it’s accurate, though, for the sake of discussion, please explain what you mean by it not being the right message.

       —Steve Bean    Dec. 13 '07 - 08:44PM    #
  4. I too get a little queasy too when people talk about the importance of “keeping more money in our local economy.” It’s too easy to read into that the assumption that people who live here are more deserving than people who live elsewhere.

    I don’t have the same reaction, for example, to’s statement of principles

       —Bruce Fields    Dec. 13 '07 - 09:11PM    #
  5. Steve — I think it’s also important to send out the message “look outward”: embrace the diversity of our 6.5 billion pop world, embrace interconnectedness, embrace importing and exporting, embrace comparative advantage. I’m in favor of thinking local when thinking local means using local for what local does best.

    As Bruce notes, the principles admirably call for think local people to provide “tangible” services to the “unique” local community. That’s well said.

    I guess my fundamental point is that we’ve already tried ten thousand years of thinking locally: it was called the Neolithic Age. Sure, industrialization and globalization bring with them a lot of things we all hate, but we need to keep thinking “upward and outward”. Per aspera ad astra



       —Fred Zimmerman    Dec. 13 '07 - 11:12PM    #
  6. I too sometimes feel the contradiction inherent in encouraging people to ‘buy local,’ when in many ways what we need people to do is buy LESS. I’ve talked to some of our member business owners who have a personal ethic of reducing their environmental impact, and they also wonder about the contradiction. However, they are in the business of selling… stuff (and need to be successful enough at it to pay their staff). I know some of them have tried to resolve that conflict by selling ‘tangible’ items, carrying higher quality items that last longer, by fixing items instead of selling people new items, or just by redefining business success to mean being able to make ‘enough but not too much’ money and contribute to the well being of their employees and community.

    I will say that this certainly isn’t true of all businesses – they are part of the same consumer culture that all of us are. I also have found lately that many businesses are pretty panicked about our economy, and that it is a lot easier to go into a ‘sell more stuff’ mode if you are working 80 hours a week to keep your business afloat (and I think also leads to the inward focus that Fred refers to).

       —Lisa    Dec. 15 '07 - 12:26AM    #
  7. People here may not be more deserving than the rest of the world but they are our friends and neighbors. Are we really benefiting the poor and hungry by patronizing corporate interests in shopping big box stores? Thanks for all the postings on this buy local theme, juliew.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Dec. 19 '07 - 06:24PM    #
  8. I think it’s also important to send out the message “look outward”: embrace the diversity of our 6.5 billion pop world, embrace interconnectedness, embrace importing and exporting, embrace comparative advantage.

    Buying locally in no way precludes a global economy. There is no doubt we have, and will continue to have, a global economy. However, in the last fifty years, we have come very close to removing any sort of local economies. The “buy local meme” is simply trying to put a little more balance into the equation. Take coffee: you can’t grow coffee in Ann Arbor so obviously even drinking coffee means you are contributing to the global economy. But if you buy it from a local roaster or a locally-owned store, you are giving back to our own community economically and you gain because you get better coffee. I can buy salad greens from California that are over a week old when I get them (and have been treated with chemicals and processes to keep them “fresh” and washed in big vats of e. coli) or I could get salad greens from Brines Farm that were picked the day before and taste better, are fresher, have used fewer resources, and I can support a local farm and farmer. Is that going to hurt the lettuce industry in California? Maybe if enough people do it, but is that really a bad thing? Growing lettuce in a desert probably isn’t that good an idea.

    Another example: my neighbor is a potter who sells his pottery at the Clay Gallery. I could buy a vase from the Pottery Barn catalog and it would probably look very nice, but I contribute nothing to my local economy. I have no idea who made it, how much money they made doing it, what is in the glaze (lead, cadmium, other heavy metals?), what their working conditions are. If I buy my neighbor’s vase, I do know all those things. In addition, I contribute to the Clay Gallery and keep it functioning. I also am supporting my neighbor, who we like. He is also a member of the Michigan Guild. The Michigan Guild gives money to the Main Street Area Association. My husband on occasion does some paid work for them. So suddenly the vase we bought locally begins to actually pay us back. And that is just one little path. Choosing to buy locally doesn’t hurt me, and actually helps me in so many ways.

    I feel the same way when I travel. I try to shop at the local stores of the area because that is more interesting to me and supports their local economy. I traveled to Australia several years ago and the first street we saw in downtown Sidney had a Gap, a Benetton, a Swatch store, and a McDonalds. It was totally boring. We were on the other side of the world and I could have been anywhere. Embracing diversity means supporting the things that are diverse, not making the world into one identical culture.

    I actually think that buying locally enhances our idea of interconnectedness and the impact we all have globally because we can actually see it. Right now much of trade is American saying to people in other countries “you grow/build/sew what we want cheaply and we won’t ask you any questions.” I don’t think that is right. When I shop locally, I can see the impact of my decisions and that makes me a better and more informed global citizen.

       —Juliew    Dec. 21 '07 - 04:26AM    #