Anyone who was in Rockland last weekend would have to agree that the city outdid itself in providing holiday cheer. With the trolley running back and forth from Main Street to the Samoset, and refreshments offered in many of the stores and galleries during the daytime, and with a nothing-short-of-wow-producing parade of Christmas-light-covered vehicles, boats, and flatbeds turned into floats at night, Rockland proved itself to be ready to rock around the holiday clock. Anyone who was not a resident of that fair city would surely want to become one, as the Down East Singers and countless Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts raised their voices in song. There was even a giant Lobster Fest lobster seeming to croon “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” in the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby.
Despite the blustery weather, the whole occasion warmed the cockles of the heart. And so did the evident gusto with which people from Rockland and elsewhere were gobbling up restaurant meals and purchasing presents from the many independent businesses that Rockland has to offer. We have to hope this kind of enthusiasm for supporting our local eateries, shops, artists and craftspeople will extend throughout the holiday shopping season, not only in Rockland but in so many of Maine’s cities and towns.
While doing a little shopping myself in Planet Toys, Reading Corner and Archipelago, I reflected that it is surely a measure of the economic downturn when one is glad to wait in line and observe business being done that supports our neighbors. We are all so earnestly hoping things will improve economically.
But we need not limit ourselves to hoping if we participate in shopping locally and at independent businesses. It is true that sometimes independent businesses cannot offer the steep discounts that are found in big-box stores, but if one watches for sales, the savings on mass-produced items can still be good. And there are pre-holiday sales galore in our local shops.
But even without sale prices, it makes sense to buy from local businesses. If the economic downturn has taught us anything, it has caused us to realize we should spend our money well. And how better to spend it than by purchasing one-of-a-kind gifts made and sold by our neighbors?
And when it comes to buying items manufactured elsewhere, it’s still sensible to buy them from local shops whenever possible. Take your local bookstore, for instance. Sure you can purchase books easily and at deep discounts online or from larger chains. But you get more for your money than a book when you buy it from an independent bookstore. That’s because you are supporting a local businessperson, local employees, and a store where you are welcomed warmly and local writers works are celebrated in your own hometown. Do you pay a bit more for this? Perhaps. But the return on your investment is surely priceless.