They are everywhere! Those little signs in store windows that remind shoppers to “buy local” – to help the local economy and local business people. We’ve all seen them, whether or not we adhere to them. With that little sign is the inherent message that shoppers should not buy at big box stores. I read in a book by a local writer that the profits go right back to where the corporate headquarters are located; another city and another state. The profits do not stay here in Portland or even Maine. Well, I’ve already broken that caveat; I shop every several weeks or so at Wal-Mart. Can’t beat it for prices on cleaning products, kitty litter and instant coffee. I confess I’ve broken the rule. Is there a penalty?! Give it to me straight.
Yesterday I went out to Macy’s at the Maine Mall in South Portland. That begged the same question. I believe Macy’s fits the description of a big box and its corporate headquarters are in New York. So all of its profits from here are also going out of state and won’t stay here in Portland or Maine – to help boost the local economy. But there is a difference here that doesn’t exist with Wal-Mart.
Too many years ago to remember, I lived in White Plains, New York. That was home and in a lot of ways remains home, although I’ve done some growing up here in Portland I must confess. That’s where I went to public school, church and all the rest of it. The rest of it included shopping trips with my beautiful mother in downtown WP. Usually on a Saturday morning. The first stop was at Macy’s on Mamarneck Avenue. That’s where we did our shopping. School clothes, summer clothes and clothes for special occasions all came from Macy’s. There were other stories in the area, but they were too pricey. Stores like Lord & Taylor & Bloomingdale’s. But prices at Macy’s were reasonable which was paramouont in our family. There was also a large selection from which to shop and the clerks were professional at Macy’s. For lunch, the two of us would cross Mamaroneck Avenue to our favorite sandwich shop. That’s where we always ordered the same thing; a shrimp salad sandwich on white bread with a coke. A pickel came with it. We’d talk about our purchases in between sandwich bites. It was several hours when I had my stylish mother to myself. She was into clothes and that I remember.
Those 50s memories came back to me yesterday as I drove out to Macy’s at the Maine Mall. I ended up buying a pair of black shoes at less than a third of its original price. The sales clerk was professional. How can a store that brings back memories be on someone’s unacceptable list? When I got home from Macy’s, I called someone knowledgeable about the buy local campaign. Is Macy’s on the buy local “no-no” list because it’s a big box whose profits go elsewhere, I asked her? “I can’t find a comparable store anywhere in downtown Portland.” “It’s not dogmatic,” was her answer. Then: “We are busy. I have to go.”
Some lessons from my growing up are worth remembering: I shop where I get the best price, have the best selection from which to choose and from where I get the best service. I want to help the local economy and I do. So what if I’m also contributing a little to the economy of New York where I grew up. But sometimes it’s not just about the money. Sometimes the memories are more important.