March 26, 2009
Suzy Orman, a personal finance pundit, was on national TV a while back suggesting that in these tough economic times people should stop eating out and stop drinking fancy lattes.Â Her advice was to brown bag a lunch and to make your coffee at home.Â
Thanks Suzy.Â I suppose I could press my own shirts, cut my own hair, and drink tap water instead of bottled water. Well, I actually do drink tap water...Â But the point is, like it or not, businesses rely on consumer spending, i.e. our hard earned dollars to survive. The decisions we make every day to purchase goods and services have consequences on our neighborhoods and local economy.Â And as residents we can make the greatest economic impact if we spend our dollars right here at home.
Dorchester is host to many commercial districts. Many of the businesses within these districts are locally owned and operated; and all are generously supported by local residents. The term "Shop Locally, Share Locally" is a long standing Main Streets message; and given today's economic climate, it applies more today than ever.Â A recent study found that spending $100 at locally owned businesses generates 58 percent more local economic impact than spending the same amount at national chain stores. It stands to reason. Chances are folks who work in these area businesses are local residents. Community based businesses spawn opportunities for local accountants, planners and architects. You get the idea.
In the Saint Mark's and Peabody Square business district we are in the midst of a renaissance of sorts.Â One hundred million dollars has been invested in public and private projects including new housing and commercial space, as well as a newly renovated MBTA Station that will be completed (finally) later next year.Â Traffic patterns will be streamlined and Peabody Square will soon boast the city's first Green Streets pilot program focusing on efforts to reduce pollution caused by stormwater runoff.
These investment dollars have given many entrepreneurs reason to hang a shingle in the district; to take a chance on Dorchester. But unfortunately, this lousy economy knows no borders and some of these businesses are hurting.
Admittedly, I am card-carrying member of BJ's Wholesale and I have worn through a set of tires going back and forth to Home Depot over the years. But its possible to do both, and I know I can do better. Norfolk Hardware is closer and comparably priced. And why do I need to buy shampoo by the gallon?
Legal services, banking, home/auto insurance, healthcare, it's all here in Dorchester. The restaurant scene is as good as ever with the Ashmont Grill, Dot-to-Dot CafÃ© and the newly opened Tavolo Ristorante. And so I don't sound completely parochial, other favorites include 224 Boston, Pho Hoa, the Blarney Stone, Blasi's, D-Bar, and yes, the Pit Stop BBQ on Morton Street.
Recently the owners of Flat Black Coffee have doubled down by adding a second location in Peabody Square. For many business owners it must feel like a game of cards. We need to support them. Let's get out there and do it!
Dorchester resident Bill Richard is the chair of the St. Mark's Area Main Streets organization.