The Urgent Necessity to Shop Locally

By Cam Mather

The following is an article that Cam wrote for our local paper “The Scoop.” Although he uses examples of local businesses, the concept of shopping locally is important for every community. (It’s also wonderful to have a local paper like The Scoop. This paper is published locally every 2nd month and is chock full of articles about the people, places and events in our community.)

The Urgent Necessity to Shop Locally

When I was a student in the Radio Broadcasting program at Loyalist College in the late 70’s I sold ads for the campus radio station. At that time Front Street in Belleville was a thriving downtown with a large variety of predominantly independent businesses. I have been there recently and it is a sad shadow of its former self as the big box stores located near the 401 have sucked away much of the life from the downtown core. And it’s depressing. Small independent businesses are the backbone of any community. The business owners belong to clubs like Rotary and The Lions, and they raise money for local work, and hospitals get new equipment and community life is enhanced by their activities. Big Box stores add nothing to a community. They suck local money away to head offices in far away places and leave the community poorer as a result.

I was reminded of this recently in a conversation with Tim Kidd at Village Video in Tamworth. Technology is beginning to affect this business, as it is mine. I publish books and the increasing penetration of e-Book readers in to the marketplace has us scrambling to maintain profitability in this new market. With the proliferation of high speed Internet some people are starting to stream videos on their computers, or order them through the mail. I refuse to do this because I like going to Tim’s. It’s a great place and I get to see the DVD cases and pick them up and read what the movie is all about. And Tim is happy to give his feedback. This week I asked him about the ending of a movie about a guy whose daughter gets kidnapped. I didn’t want to watch it if it ended badly, and I got the scoop from Tim. You just can’t beat personal service.

I really got thinking about the importance of community a few weeks ago after there had been a fire in Tamworth. In chatting with Tim who is a volunteer firefighter, I learned that the fire broke out at 9 pm and that many of the firefighters, including Tim, didn’t leave the scene until 5 am. I thought about how important Tim Kidd and the other volunteer firefighters are to my community. If I rented a video from some far away mail order video company, would the president come to my house in the middle of the night to put out a fire? Tim would and does regularly.

So many of us are so caught up in the eternal pursuit of the lowest price, that we forget about the impact that spending all of our money at big box stores has on our local community. Big box grocery stores can sell some stuff cheaper than a small, local store, but will they sponsor a local team or a float in the Canada Day Parade in Tamworth? When I need something that Kim and Larry don’t usually sell at Stonemills Family Market in Tamworth, they’ll track it down for me. And they employ local people to work there. I like shopping at Kim and Larry’s.

Sure you can save a few bucks at a hardware store in the city, but what about when you’re doing a plumbing job and you need just that one fitting to finish the job? It’s nice to know that Kuhlwant at Tamworth Pro Hardware is there and so handy, so why aren’t you getting all the stuff for the job from her so she’ll be there the next time you need just that one item?

Tamworth has been blessed with a new pharmacy in town. I’m sure some people will stay with the big box pharmacy that they’ve grown accustomed to, but what about those days you aren’t feeling well and just want one medication and don’t feel like driving to Kingston? Isn’t it wonderful that you can get what you need in Tamworth? We need to make as many of our purchases locally as possible to ensure that we continue to have the variety of exceptional business people that we do.

The current spike in oil and gas prices is not a fluke. It’s the new reality of the marketplace recognizing that we’ve hit peak oil at the time that demand is rising throughout the world. Gasoline over the long term is going to get much, much more expensive, to the point where it’s going to be tough for many us to venture outside of our community very often.

Companies that pay people to use their personal vehicles these days will often pay them about 52¢/km. When you factor in the cost of gas, insurance, repairs, new tires, etc. this is considered to be an approximate all-in cost of driving a vehicle. So that 100 kilometer round trip to Kingston actually costs you about $52. You’d have to save $52 shopping at those big box stores versus shopping locally to justify the trip. Do you really save that much shopping in Kingston? As the cost of fuel rises the cost of your shopping trip will also rise.

There’s never been a better time to commit to purchase as much of the stuff you need from the merchants in Tamworth. We need to make sure that their businesses remain viable, especially as the cost of driving elsewhere becomes more and more prohibitive. Local merchants contribute to the quality of our community. Every time you walk into one of those multinational big box stores in a faraway community ask yourself, “Would the owner of this business come and put out a house fire for me?” Tim at Village Video in Tamworth will. Let’s make sure his business continues to thrive so he’s there for us.

2 Responses to “The Urgent Necessity to Shop Locally”

  • Well Cam, you’ve hit it on the nail again. We need to think of the community when we shop and not just the lowest price. We’re moving away from Kingston this summer and we want to buy a rural place south of Ottawa. I’ll be looking for a community similar to yours and hope to follow your example. The catch is that at our price range we’ll be an hour away from my work. I will take a coach bus but am not looking forward to the commute and the rising price of gas sure scares me. The bus fare will just keep rising so I am worried I’m setting myself up. I’m going to have to do some serious thinking.


  • Connie Murray:

    There is definitely a huge positive in knowing the owner of the local stores you choose to shop at. Whether it is getting a mechanical repair done to your car or picking up some food at the grocer’s, when you know the people involved your confidence increases. You know you’re getting quality and that the owners (some who become friends over time) are looking out for you.
    Cheaper isn’t necessarily better because — you get what you pay for.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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