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Is it Important for You to Shop Local?

And if so, what are you doing to support the local economy?

Over its 18 years in Petaluma, Jungle Vibes had been a crowd favorite, selling smart toys, games and gifts for both young and old.

But last week, the store closed, unable to pull a profit in the difficult economic times. Co-owner Wayne Morgenthaler blamed online retailers and smart phones that enabled shoppers to price compare with the touch of a button, often sending them to chain stores like Target and Kmart.

The beloved toy store may have been emptied out, but the store owners also left a message for the community, taping "Buy Local" fliers to the windows. The fliers extoll the virtues of shopping at locally-owned businesses, including economic vitality, a sense of community and character. 'Nuf said.

So, you tell us. Is it important for you to support local businesses and what do you love about it? Do you think the city should pass ordinances that ban big box stores altogether or is there a way national retailers and mom and pop shops can get along?

Patrick M. February 19, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I used to make an effort to shop locally, but I am so tired of the City's anti-business approach that I no longer make it a priority. After many years of looking all over Petaluma for things I need (clothing, building supplies, electronics, etc.) I realized it was costing me time and money. I am now more likely just to leave Petaluma and go directly to where I know I can get what I need and be done with it. Our City Council lacks the business accumen to keep street lights running, what makes you think they are capable of deciding what businesses are OK?
Ptown February 19, 2012 at 05:49 PM
If the owner says his customers were buying their goods at Target instead of his store, that means they're leaving town to shop. So shopping at the new Target will be shopping locally. Nothing wrong with people not wanting to pay double or more for the same product. Only a small percent can afford to do that.
cntryln February 19, 2012 at 06:45 PM
It's not all about price, how about selection? It's truly an art for a merchant to understand their customers needs and wants. Some businesses do not understand simple retail math, turns, supply/demand. I walk into local retail shops that have dust on their products, no new selection, and do not know when to fill in popular items. It's not enough to fill up a store with "stuff," businesses need to listen to their customers, look around at the marketplace, understand how to create repeat business.
Maggie Hohle February 19, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Go to Facebook and join the group, Petaluma Ca$h Mob. See what's going on there. People tell one another about great local businesses that do have good things, that do know their customers, at least those who are willing to spend the time to have an engaging experience, not just spend the money and get the stuff. Having lived in north Jersey, where there are nothing but strip malls and big box retailers, like MOST OF THE COUNTRY anymore, I can tell you how vacant shopping experiences can get. Please get to know your local merchants and service businesses, before we don't have any more.
tbaxter February 19, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I think it is important to shop locally. However, some businesses that have been around for more than 10 years need to strategize about meeting customer needs. Owners/Buyers have to keep up with trends and demand through tradeshows, online resources, etc. And the service has to be impeccable, rather than meeting your visitors with a burnt-out attitude when they walk in your store. It's really hard to operate a retail outlet. And it's easy to blame the customer for shopping elsewhere. The responsibility needs to be on both parties. I think a conscious consumer attitude is necessary (where am I spending my money/who am I supporting) and retailers need to step up their game and not feel victimized by their customers. For me, I haven't bought anything new, apart from food, in ages. We're surrounded by antique/consignment/thrift/flea markets/auctions/estate sales . . . I have been recycling my belongings and that feels better than buying something locally, but made in China. Also, retailers need to fill a need in town, rather than open a store where there is already stiff competition in that area. We don't need another bookstore, feed/farm/hardware store, pizza place, sushi restaurant, coffe house, etc. We have that covered. So, meet a demand, don't just open up a store that interests you alone.
Bug Deakin February 20, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The essence of shopping locally is keeping your money in town. If a Target store opens in the area, the money you spend there does not stay here, it trundles off to Minnesota. Typically a Target type store will pay lower wages, sell cheaper products and put locally owned business out of business. The essence of shopping local is supporting locally owned business, where the owners keep the money circulating in your town. This is the Local Multiplier Effect energized by how many times a dollar circulates in the local economy before leaving by rote of an import purchase . . . and yes, it is at times almost impossible to find an item not made in China!
Nick Hoffman February 20, 2012 at 03:15 PM
It's hard for local mom and pop stores to have the turnover of products that a big box can have. They can compete mostly with the prices of individual items, but selection is a tough one. Still, to help support the mom and pop shops local folks need to recognize when they can change a habit to make the local place a priority. Make a local coffee place a habit, pick up that book locally, find reasons to peak in at the local places and then get to know the people that run them. Try and find someone at Target that really knows the product you are looking for, then do that same kind of search at a local place, and usually you'll find someone locally that will bend over backwards to try and answer that question for you. It's not about buying your stuff at the "local" big box, it's about supporting the little guys so your dollar stays in town.
George Barich February 20, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Should we shop locally? NO. Why would anyone in their right mind enable any business that refuses to provide the best product, at the best price, with the best service, with the best warranties, has good parking, speaks English etc. etc? It makes no sense. Let inferior businesses fail and stop enabling businesses that are lazy, fail to cater to their customers, and expect customer loyalty just because they hope people will feel sorry for them if they don't. It's insane. I work in Petaluma and live in Cotati. Cotati tried shopcotati.org through the Chamber of Commerce. It was a complete failure. Pitting one city against another city is asinine, and I refuse to get involved with these cash mobs that are doing nothing but covering for a bigger problem with a lot of businesses these days. Many businesses are mismanaged, can't compete, or no longer have a market for a variety of reason, be it the internet or technology has passed them by. Some businesses need to fail to make room for new businesses to come in who know how to serve the community. Failure is part of life. With the death of a business there is renewal with it's replacement. And these city governments that think they can actually do something about the problem take the cake. They can't even fix the potholes let alone improve economic development. Now that RDA money is gone, maybe they will back off, stop meddling in the marketplace and stop making matters worse for local businesses.
Bookworm February 20, 2012 at 07:02 PM
George Barich, 1) Current bad business climate has nothing to do with Petaluma City management. The whole country is suffering from the misguided expenditure of federal taxpayer funds on wars abroad. The whole country is suffering to keep the rich from paying taxes while the rest of us get lousy schools and roads. The whole country is suffering while the big bankers laugh their way to their off-shore holdings. 2) You cannot compare big box stores to local stores any more than you can compare union made items made in countries with good working conditions to items made in countries where the workers are paid pennies a day to work in toxic or otherwise dangerous working conditions. The big box stores are not necessarily better managed; they are just CHEAP - but the officers of those companies are no better than the bankers, because they steal good jobs from US citizens, move them overseas, and get filthy rich doing it. There is a simple solution for every problem, and usually, it is WRONG. Please don't be simple. PS - Jungle Vibes had good products, fair prices, good service, and it is a shame they had to close. When we start enforcing laws against fraud, charge tax rates equivalent to what was paid during the Eisenhower era (when the rich were taxed appropriately and still made good money), and stop spending taxpayer money on wars abroad & military contractors who are in bed with high officials, we will see a healthy economy. Not before.
localcyclist February 21, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Well said, Maggie, Bug and Bookworm. I agree it's vital to shop locally. Please go to http://www.the350project.net/ to learn more. "Locals love you MORE" with 68% of their income returned to your local economy!
George Barich February 21, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Defense spending is not the problem here, or why there is no stimulus money left to bailout small businesses in Petaluma that can't compete, or simply refuse to try. Good grief. That argument is so off base to the real problem at hand it's alarming. Runaway social entitlements are at the heart of America's concerns as well as runaway state and federal debt, not military defense spending. The rich pay far more than their fair share in this country and American's are tiring of this class warfare nonsense. Look at the polls on this subject. But I digress. City Hall has to get out of the business of trying to pick winners and losers in local commerce which is a huge waste of precious local tax dollars. That's not their job. Again, who in their right mind would patronize a business that does not offer superior products and services at competitive prices with the best warranties? There are NO simple solutions for every problem, and to suggest otherwise simply borders on the bizarre. I am not speaking about Jungle Vibes, Jungle Jives, or Jungle Love. I don't care if any of them close shop. As a consumer, that's not my role in the marketplace. With all due respect, I wholeheartedly disagree with your assessment of this issue which is bigger than Jungle Vibes.
Bookworm February 21, 2012 at 07:45 AM
George, you are agreeing with me. The problem IS bigger than Jungle Vibes. And I am tired of the class warfare nonsense, but you have it backwards - the warfare is being conducted by the rich against the middle class. How can you say the rich pay more than their fair share, when GE pays no taxes, when big banks get bailed out as they foreclose on middle class homes and use the bailout money to pay themselves fat bonuses? What you are supporting is welfare for the corporations and unfair to the rest of us. In a civilized society, we take care of each other. What made America great was not rapaciousness, but people working together to build barns, harvest crops, and nurture community, including our neighbors' businesses. Life does not need to be lived as a war.
mikeg55 February 22, 2012 at 08:15 PM
If Jungle Vibes had sold products that people wanted, they would have stayed in business. Never even heard of them until they went out of business.
George Barich February 22, 2012 at 10:25 PM
The problem of businesses not being able to compete is not a responsibility of the local, state, or federal government. It's the poor and the middle class that are conducted on the rich, (whoever that is depending on how Obama defines them this week...) What does investing in new businesses, hiring new people, and keeping profits from fleeing to other countries have to do with warfare on the middle class? The rich pay far more than their fair share, the top1% paying 38% of all taxes, the top 10% paying 70% of all taxes. Do the top 10% use up 70% of the all government spending? Of course not. Should the rich pay more to defend our nation per capita? What you are supporting is a welfare for those who don't produce, can't produce, who don't want to produce, who feel entitled to everything for free. In a civilized society, everyone pulls their own weight and you are judged by how much you give voluntarily, not by how much is taken at the end of a gun barrel. This warfare against those who save, invest, spend, employ others, and pay the majority of the nation's taxes must end because they have been fleeing the country in droves for decades now, making our economy worse, not better.
Kelly March 20, 2012 at 06:14 AM
I tried to shop in Jungle Vibes one day. I was in there with my young child, and came across a wall of extremely offensive anti-Bush propaganda. One photo even showed President Bush with a ball gag in his mouth. I was disgusted. I walked up to the counter and told the owner that while I would like to purchase some of the products he had for sale, I chose not to, because of the highly inappropriate images he had taped to the wall in his establishment. This was a TOY STORE for goodness sake! Who wants their kids to have to look at that kind of offensive propaganda???

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