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Time to support merchants who've invested in us

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.  Her advice was to brown bag a lunch and to make your coffee at home. 
Thanks Suzy.  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...  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.  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.  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.  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.  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 Café 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.

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Comments

Thanks, Bill, for the charge that we CAN do both - support local businesses even while patronizing the larger chains for certain needs of greater scale. The best part about Dorchester businesses is the opportunity to build relationships with the business owners. Karen Henry-Garrett - proprietor of Dot2Dot; Jen, David, Sarah and Jeff - management at Flat Black; Craig and Anne Galvin of Galvin Real Estate -- these are all great people that believe in Dorchester's potential. Support local and at the very least, get great service...at best, make a new friend.

I couldnt agree more with this. But at the same time, businesses need to be generous to the community which keeps them in operation. The BEST advertising a business can do is on the back of a little league/youth hockey/soccer/etc jersey. There are many local businesses which are VERY generous in this way (Gerards, CF Donovans, Blasi's and Pats Pizza come to mind immediately). Members Plus Credit Union, Eire Pub, and The Galvin Real Estate group also come to mind for being active community supporters.

There are, however, some businesses that need to be called onto the carpet. The Icecreamsmith in Lower Mills refuses to donate to any community organization. I mean, who are they selling icecream to? Flatback coffee (also mentioned in this article) is another company which is infamous for thier stinginess.

This is just a heads up to the members of our community. If you dont see your local coffee shop, cafe, pub, etc represented as a sponsor to different community activities...then send them a message by steeing clear!

So the solution is to bully businesses??? Most businesses have small profit margins, and lots of solicitors. I would like businesses to help where they can, but it's not the responsibility of every shopkeeper to pay for hockey, baseball, tuition for everyone in their neighborhood. Bullying businesses out of business is bad for our neighborhood.

No they shouldnt be bullied, but yes, every business in Dorchester should sponsor SOMETHING. Even if it's just one organization. Its not something they should feel obligated to do, but rather something they should feel proud to do.

I'll use the Ice Creamsmith as an example. Who eats ice cream? Kids. During the summer. Therefore, something logical for the Ice Creamsmith to donate to is little league baseball (at $6 for a milk shake they can surely afford it).

We, as a community, patronize these businesses, and a business SHOULD give back. Like I said in my previous comment, the business gains something from this too: The best advertising they can do is on the back of a youth sports jersey.

Why do many people get thier morning coffee and newspaper at Gerards? Is it because they have the best coffee in Dorchester? No. It's because Gerard Adomunes has, over the years, been one of the most generous business owners in town. He has supported countless youth sports teams and charity events, often with little recognition. And as a result, Gerards has become a neighborhood institution. (I hope Gerard will forgive me for using him as an example...and as for the Ice Creamsmith, I dont care if they forgive me or not, as I never patronize thier establishment.)

Im not saying we should punish anyone, Im just saying that in this blue-collar, working class neighborhood, especially during these tough times, we should all share the burden of making the community better.

First and foremost, a business should offer top-quality services and products for the lowest price. If it costs a little more to shop locally, it does save on transportation costs so it all comes out in the wash. I would rather be able to walk around the block for good ice cream than buy a homogenized, supermarket brand full of guar gum and corn syrup. I would rather stroll to a local coffee shop and say hello to neighbors, catch up on the news on the street, and see what is going on in my neighborhood, than make my own coffee from beans bought in bulk, alone in my kitchen. This is city living. What the local shopkeepers offer cannot be replaced by chain stores whether they are located in Dorchester or in Braintree. Why is one charity any more special than another that these businesses may be supporting?

By keeping storefronts occupied, local businesses are keeping the neighborhood alive and functional while the bigger chains can't be bothered. If it made sense and they had the extra cash, more smaller business people would spend it in "approved" ways. As it is, I am happy they are open for business and I will support any establishment that offers convenience and value. I would rather see businesses reinvest profits on improving inventory and services than on Little League jerseys if they can't afford to.

Anyone who wants to take a economic chance in Dorchester has my respect and I will support them if they offer what I need, regardless of how much they sponsor intramural sports. Just by operating in this part of Boston, they are involved in the community. We are better off because of that.